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Opinion: AAP ahead? What is it looking like after May 16

DC | Ujjwal K Chowdhury | May 01, 2014, 14.05 pm IST
Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal with school children during an election campaign in Varanasi. (Photo: AP)
Aam Aadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal with school children during an election campaign in Varanasi. (Photo: AP)

Mumbai: One of the defining issues of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is the enigma, hope, confusion and ambiguity, all at the same time centering around the 18-months old party Aam Aadmi Party, born out of the anti corruption movement led by Anna Hazare in Delhi.

When AAP came out with flying colours in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections, winning in 28 seats and cornering one-third of the votes cast in Delhi, there was an immense surge of hope and possibility for the party across the nation. Lakhs of Indians become members of the party, online and offline. And as the Lok Sabha elections drew closer, thousands started applying for candidature to contest.

However, first coming to power with the unsolicited support of Congress in Delhi, then leaving power in a huff when the AAP government failed to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in Delhi assembly due to the combined onslaught of BJP-Congress, the situation changed drastically.

There were questions as to why a minority government was being formed in Delhi by AAP with just 28 MLAs in a house of 70, and that too with the support of Congress, which it just dislodged in Dec 4 elections.

Then questions were raised as to why did AAP relinquish power in 49 days without taking the people into confidence and in a huff even if Congress and BJP were together to defeat its anti-corruption bill.

Hence, when AAP put up 450+ candidates across India with less than 30 crores in hand as resources, the reactions ranged from a rare wow to a far common cynicism. The party leadership spoke of 100 winning seats while the media opinion polls gave from 3 to 9 seats, none touching the double digit too.

As we are within the last fortnight of the long drawn nine phases, 45 days elections process, it might be interesting to look at what AAP can realize this time around and what could be its impact in near future.

In spite of the popular media, print and electronic, focusing largely on the two major parties and allegations of paid media, not all untrue, flying thick across the electoral spectrum, many reports and pictures show that AAP has managed to put at least a million volunteers across the nation to work partially or full time in this period for the party in its first Lok Sabha battle. That is the first success of AAP apart from putting up 450+ candidates, not all coming clean on its own touchstone.

As things stand on ground today, AAP is sure to cross 15% of votes cast in at least three states: Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, and is expected to cross 6% of votes in three more: Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and there could be a few other surprises too. That makes AAP a national party which by definition in People’s Representation Act should have at least 6% or more votes in at least four states of India. That is the second significant achievement of AAP.

Next are the seats and the leaders who are expected to win. Even unkind opinion polls give at least 3 seats to AAP in Delhi and the most likely winners are ace historian Raj Mohan Gandhi, journalist Ashish Khetan and Dalit face Rakhi Birla. AAP would like to believe that journalists Jarnail Singh and Ashutosh are also likely to win.

All media reports show an AAP swing in Punjab, and the likely winning seats are Chandigarh, Sangrur, Gurudaspur and Ludhiana. A few seats in Haryana, specially Faridabad and Karnal or even Hissar may throw surprises in favour of the party.

In western India, Medha Patkar and Meera Sanyal in Mumbai, and Dr Kanu Kalsariya in Bhavnagar have given a strong fight. There seems to be a good contest delivered by P Uday Kumar in Kanyakumari and the first woman DGP Kanchan Chaudhary in Haridwar on behalf of AAP, though victory in any of these seats will not come easy. And in Bengaluru, former Infosys CFO Balakrishnan is the most possible winner, if any from Karnataka.

Hence, forgetting extremes of 3 and 100, a safe informed guess could be 10-12 MPs of AAP going into the Lok Sabha post May 16, and that could have ace journalists, lawyers, social activists and social scientists, all of whom can impact the functioning of and debates within the Lok Sabha eminently. Even 10-12 MPs within 18 months of formation of the party should be considered a great leap forward. And it is futile to debate what could have been if Delhi mistakes were not done by the party of professionals and social workers, with no political experience.

In every election around the world, a new first-timer party is likely to be evaluated low in opinion polls as neither the pollsters factor a new force in survey, nor do the voters come out vociferously in support of a newbie party though may participate in a silent revolution in its favour, as seen in the Delhi elections which proved all opinion polls wrong.

A subdued victory of NDA, the most likely scenario, or a khichdi sarkar of the Third Front and Congress together, coupled with at least 4 MPs from Delhi, would catapult the party to gain prominence in Delhi again and be favourites for getting clear majority in the Delhi elections as no party is in a position now to govern Delhi with the current Assembly composition.

There are elections in Haryana and Maharashtra within September 2014. An AAP surge in Delhi and Punjab in Lok Sabha and beyond will catapult the party to a strong position in Haryana and some position of significance in Maharashtra by the year end.

The scenario above can be the best possible outcome of its efforts as AAP turns two years come October 2o14, and this itself should b enough. The way ahead for 2015 will come out from the womb of 2014 and its final scenario in politics.

That AAP cannot be wished away as a national force is proven by the fact that a large number of educated clean professionals, social workers, RTI activists and scholars have come into electoral politics through the AAP route and will remain a force ahead.

It is also proven by the real politics in the most talked about three seats of the country: Varanasi, Amethi and Rae Barelli.

BJP puts powerful Smriti Irani in Amethi to break anti-Rahul votes, make him win and Kumar Viswas defeated when Kumar is close to giving real fight. BJP does not put up any strong candidate against Sonia in Rae Barelli where AAP fails to put up a strong candidate even after trying out with Shazia Ilmi and Justice Fakhruddin. Congress gives a return gift by putting strong local MLA Ajay Rai with Muslim, Kolis, Kurmis and rural support to break anti-Modi voters and make Kejriwal defeated and Modi win. It further ensured Muktar Ansari’s support for itself hoping for further polarization of Muslim votes. Interestingly, Muktar was defeated in the last general election in Varanasi by Murli Manohar Joshi of BJP by a mere 17,000 votes, while Ajay Rai came third with more than a lakh votes contesting then on SP ticket.

This surely is the biggest electoral match fixing of 2014 between Ahmed Patel of Congress and Amit Shah of BJP, indeed!

Nevertheless, irrespective of whether a gung-ho or subdued BJP comes to power or Third Front with Congress comes to power, a reasonably strong AAP contingent in Lok Sabha, national party status and presence of AAP across India, and it coming to power again in Delhi with increasing presence in Northern and Western India, are necessary as a quality control in Indian politics, keeping aloft the anti corruption banner, and bringing home focus on probity, transparency, opposition to crony capitalism and dynasty rule, et al. It is good for the Indian democracy by all means.

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