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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Delhi elections: How AAP dissidents see party’s performance and more

Indianexpress.com spoke to some of the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members  — Yogendra Yadav, Ashutosh and Prashant Bhushan — to know how they looked at the Delhi elections and the performance of the party they were once part of.

Written by Shreyasi Jha | New Delhi | Updated: February 8, 2020 11:36:42 am
AAP dissents on kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav on AAp, Prashant Bhushan on ARvind Kejriwal, Ahsutosh on delhi elections, Delhi news, Delhi assembly elections 2020, How AAP dissents see Delhi election, Indian express From left — Yogendra Yadav, Ashutosh and Prashant Bhushan. (Express Archive)

As Delhi goes to the polls tomorrow, February 8, all eyes are on the triangular contest among the three parties — Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. While AAP ran its campaign on its government’s performance on the indices of bijli, paani, schools and hospitals in its tenure, the BJP made the anti-CAA protests its poll plank. Congress, meanwhile, tried to call the voters with the promises made by former chief minister Shiela Dikshit.

Indianexpress.com spoke to some of the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members  — Yogendra Yadav, Ashutosh and Prashant Bhushan — to know how they looked at the Delhi elections and the performance of the party they were once part of.

Yogendra Yadav

On his absence from election campaigning

I have stayed away from campaigning in the Delhi assembly elections. I have been asked to convene the working group of “Hum Bharat ke log”, a nation-wide umbrella of anti-CAA movement. We did not want anyone to link the movement with Delhi elections. My party, Swaraj India, is contesting four seats (none in the strongholds of the anti-CAA protests) in this elections. But I am grateful that my organisation allowed me to refrain from addressing any election meeting or public canvassing. For us, this nation-wide movement is far more important than Delhi elections.

On AAP’s prospects

I no longer do election forecasting, as I used to. For me, the critical question about Delhi election is the electoral outcome of this unprecedented hate-mongering indulged in by the BJP. As a citizen of this country, I sincerely hope and pray that politics of hatred is defeated. I have my opinions about AAP and its leadership — and these are no secret — but I cannot let it cloud my judgement about the overall context of these elections or to be used by the BJP and its friends in the media.

AAP dissents on kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav on AAp, Prashant Bhushan on ARvind Kejriwal, Ahsutosh on delhi elections, Delhi news, Delhi assembly elections 2020, How AAP dissents see Delhi election, Indian express File photo of Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan at a press conference in New Delhi in 2016. (Express Photo by Anil Sharma)

On AAP/Kejriwal keeping away from protest sites

Sadly, this is the attitude of most mainstream parties, including AAP. Most opposition parties have been unable to take any principled stand on this issue concerning the very foundations of our Republic. Those who did vote against CAA have been reluctant to take a position on the ground. And that really tells us the limits to a certain kind of mainstream populist politics. If people share a majoritarian ideology, then these parties would flow with wherever the majority takes them. AAP is no exception.

Ashutosh

On election campaigning

I have three observations about this election. Firstly, this is the most vitriolic election ever that has crossed all boundaries of language and political nastiness,  or niceties. The way political opponents were treated, it looked as if they were enemies. Secondly, this election is also a case study of how Arvind Kejriwal has transformed from an activist to a politician. He is a different man altogether. As a politician, he is more sober, mature, economical with words, he is not impulsive, not abrasive and aggressive. He also did not let himself get trapped by the nationalism plant of the BJP even as he tried to project himself as a Hindu. Thirdly, I think this is the most lacklustre campaign of the BJP on the ground. When the president of the party roams in the streets distributing pamphlets, it shows the weakness of the party. That shows the BJP does not have a leader of the stature in Delhi and a local star campaigner like it has Shivraj Singh Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra and ML Khattar in Haryana. Owing to the lack of leadership in Delhi, they could not present a focused agenda for the polls

On AAP’s prospects

AAP has a clear edge over the BJP. The way they (BJP) tried to make Shaheen Bagh a part of their election campaign and the way their leaders crossed all boundaries, it shows they are internally so rattled. They tried to compensate it with sheer rhetoric. Also, there are three things that worked for AAP. First, Arvind Kejriwal himself. As there is TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor working for Narendra Modi, similarly there is a TINA factor working for Kejriwal in Delhi. There is no leader of the stature who can match Kejriwal. Manoj Tiwari, Parvesh Verma and Vijay Goel stand nowhere. Second, the BJP has no face and agenda for Delhi. Third, BJP suffers because of non-performance of the MCD and the non-performance of their MPs. The last factor that goes against the BJP is that Congress is doing badly which is an advantage to AAP. Their better vote share in the MCD elections and Lok Sabha elections show they are in a better position but in assembly, it is clear that they have already conceded defeat.

AAP dissents on kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav on AAp, Prashant Bhushan on ARvind Kejriwal, Ahsutosh on delhi elections, Delhi news, Delhi assembly elections 2020, How AAP dissents see Delhi election, Indian express File photo of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with former AAP leader Ashutosh during the Ashutosh’s book launch function in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Anil Sharma/File)

The success of Kejriwal lies in the fact that he has created a perception that the government is working. Despite all my biases, this government has done well on bijli, paani, education and health. He could have done even better if he had coordinated well with the Centre. He fought with everybody. For example on the issue of pollution, he could have coordinated better with the Haryana, Punjab and Central governments. Kejriwal realised it later in his term and he completely transformed himself after the MCD election

On AAP/Kejriwal keeping away from protest sites

His not visiting the anti-CAA sites is part of a brilliant strategy. BJP tried to trap them, but they have proved themselves to be smarter. They realised that the BJP had deliberately raised the issue and if Kejriwal would go there, BJP would have successfully projected that Kejriwal is doing Muslim appeasement. BJP failed in its gameplan, which is why it got so bitter and bitter in its campaigning.

AAP dissents on kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav on AAp, Prashant Bhushan on ARvind Kejriwal, Ahsutosh on delhi elections, Delhi news, Delhi assembly elections 2020, How AAP dissents see Delhi election, Indian express File photo of Arvind Kejriwal with former AAP party leaders Ashutosh and Kumar Vishwas at Patel Nagar office in New Delhi in 2015. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna/File)

Prashant Bhushan

On election campaigning  

This time the BJP campaign is entirely communal and the AAP is campaigning on what it calls its performance. BJP’s campaign is entirely on Shaheen Bagh and Biryani. I see the AAP registering a thumping majority yet again. The completely negative campaign of the BJP, their lack of leadership, their putting up criminal candidates will work in favour of the AAP. I think AAP has been failed in bringing Jan Lokpal bill, bringing transparency and did not make grievance redressal manual.

On AAP keeping away from protest sites

By not visiting the anti-CAA protestors, the AAP has played it safe. So, it won’t affect the elections. They are populist in nature. Even if the AAP wins, the protest will go on till central government addresses it because it is against the Centre.

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