Last Thursday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) kickstarted its campaign in Karnataka for the Assembly polls, slated for May next year, with the party’s national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, while addressing a farmers event in Bengaluru, claiming that his party would form its third government in the southern state after being elected to power in Delhi and Punjab.
The AAP’s spectacular victory in the recent Punjab Assembly polls seems to have galvanised its members in Karnataka, who have started preparing for the upcoming Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections as part of the party’s strategy to expand its footprint in the state.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the then fledgling AAP had forayed into the state, but fared disastrously in the seats it contested. The party did not contest the 2015 Bengaluru civic body polls. In the 2018 Karnataka Assembly polls, the party contested 29 seats, but lost all of them badly with its vote share logged at just 0.06 per cent.
The AAP did not have any prominent face in Karnataka then. Buoyed by the party’s Punjab triumph, its rank and file now, however, appear to be brimming with renewed confidence over its prospects in the state.
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“This time after winning the Punjab Assembly elections, the party cadre is seeing the next Karnataka Assembly polls in a positive way. The top leaders are also considering the Karnataka election as important for the party’s expansion in the southern region of the country,” AAP sources told The Indian Express.
The AAP has appointed senior Delhi party leader Dilip Pandey as the Karnataka in-charge. “The party has started its preparations for Bengaluru civic body polls as well as the Assembly polls, and as part of it the central leadership has appointed Dilip Pandey as the Karnataka in-charge, who has been visiting the state regularly now,” sources said.
The AAP’s Karnataka unit has started inducting several prominent people into the party fold. Former IPS officer Bhaskar Rao joined the party recently. The AAP is likely to field him from Basavanagudi Assembly constituency in South Bengaluru, a stronghold of the ruling BJP, party sources said, adding that several Janata Dal (Secular) leaders and retired bureaucrats are also likely to join the AAP in the coming days.
The April 21 Bengaluru event inaugurated by Kejriwal was organised by the Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha (KRRS), a state farmers body. On the occasion, KRRS convenor Kodihalli Chandrashekar joined the AAP, even as he urged the KRRS members and farmers to extend “full support” to the party. Kejriwal also appealed to the farmers to join the AAP and “end corruption” in Karnataka.
Chandrashekar said, “Neither the BJP nor the Congress nor the JD(S) are options anymore to rely upon, and I request farmers across the state to back the AAP, as it is offering alternative politics.”
A retired Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) officer K Mathai also joined the AAP recently. Mathai, who served in the Indian Air Force (IAF), was part of the Operation Blue Star in Punjab in 1984. He sought voluntary retirement from the IAF in 1999. Subsequently, he took the Karnataka civil services exam and cleared it but got his appointment seven years later as there was then a freeze on fresh recruitments.
During his 10-year stint with the KAS, Mathai was transferred 28 times as he was known for highlighting various cases of alleged corruption and irregularities in the administration. He had also filed a petition before the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) against then chief secretary Vijay Bhaskar and nine IAS officers, charging that he was transferred multiple times because he had exposed an alleged land scam in the Mandya Urban Development Authority (MUDA) worth Rs 300 crore.
According to AAP sources, the party has decided to fight the 2023 Karnataka Assembly elections on a “large scale” since it is a big southern state and is largely dependent on agriculture, where the farmers are facing similar problems like their Punjab counterparts. As part of its state plan, the party is currently focusing on contesting the Bengaluru civic body polls. It believes that Bengaluru shares commonalities with Delhi as it is also a large, cosmopolitan city like the latter.
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