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AAP set to enter Haryana, to start with upcoming local polls

Party leaders said AAP is aiming to launch its membership drive for Haryana within the next few days and plans to add at least one lakh new members by January 2022.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
Updated: December 13, 2021 7:53:58 pm
AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. (File)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is gradually expanding its footprint beyond Delhi and Punjab, is eyeing Haryana next. The party plans to contest the upcoming panchayat and municipal polls, before going all out for the 2024 Vidhan Sabha elections.

Party leaders said AAP is aiming to launch its membership drive for Haryana within the next few days and plans to add at least one lakh new members by January 2022.

True to its reputation, AAP is entering the state with a strategy – the party has divided Haryana into four zones, appointed zone-wise presidents, set up offices in all the districts, and plans to soon have offices in all the 90 Assembly constituencies.

“We will be contesting the municipal and panchayat polls in Haryana on our symbol,” said AAP Rajya Sabha Sushil Gupta.

AAP’s entry into Haryana comes at a time when the Khattar-led BJP government finds itself on the backfoot over the farm protests. Over the last few months, Chief Minister M L Khattar and other BJP leaders have faced agitated farmers across the state.

While the protests have been called off after the Centre repealed the three farm laws, a sticking point remains – the cases lodged against farmers in the state. With the Centre putting the onus on the state government to withdraw these cases, farmers in the state are watching warily.

As it enters the state, the AAP would want to cash in on this sentiment against the BJP and its ally, the JJP.

The BJP’s bypoll loss to the INLD in Ellenabad last month also gives the AAP hope of turning Haryana’s largely bipolar politics into a three-cornered fight.

The AAP’s entry into the state is with an eye on the way the state voted in the 2019 Assembly polls, when no party won a majority. The BJP, which won 40 seats (44.4% vote share), fell short of a majority by six votes and tied up with the JJP that won 10 seats. The Congress won 31 seats with a vote share of 31.4%.

On the BJP-JJP coalition, Gupta said, “The people of the state have lost their faith in the alliance. The CM and the Deputy CM (Dushyant Chautala of JJP) must be the only two leaders in this entire country or even in the world who face protests even in their own constituencies.”

Haryana BJP media co-incharge Sanjay Ahuja dismissed the AAP’s chances, saying, “As of now, there is no visibility of AAP on ground in Haryana. It has no leadership in the state. Before making an announcement of contesting elections, it should work on the ground.”

The AAP fancies its chances in the state also because the Opposition Congress is probably at its weakest and hasn’t been able to capitalise on the anger against the ruling coalition. The party is still grappling with infighting among the factions led by former CM Bhupender Singh Hooda, HPCC chief Kumari Sheja, and a third group led by Randeep Surjewala and Kiran Choudhry.

Gupta dismissed the Congress challenge, saying, “Congress is a divided house. Hooda has some hold, but he is also not going to stay in the Congress for long. In that case, it is a fit place for AAP to offer people what they want and what they had been expecting all these years from their leaders.”

When reached for her comment on AAP’s plans, Selja said every party is free to take its decisions.

But Haryana may prove to be an entirely different political playground from Delhi and Punjab, the two states where AAP has had electoral successes. For one, this is a state with a largely rural population that has traditionally voted on caste lines.

Gutpa, however, claimed the AAP will offer the people of Haryana a political alternative. “Improvement in sectors such as health, education, law and order, women’s empowerment, power and water are our key areas of focus. Lakhs of people who live in Haryana work in Delhi. They have seen how Delhi has changed.”

Gupta, who is from Jind, claimed that the party is drawing attention from leaders of other parties. “Several former MLAs are in touch with us. A former (INLD) minister Vasudev Sharma’s entire family joined us a few days ago. We are not into caste politics, like other political parties. We are only looking for suitable candidates.”

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