AAP Seeks to Cement Footprint in Punjab

UncategorizedAAP Seeks to Cement Footprint in Punjab

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By – Raza Hasnain Naqvi

Punjab is that touchstone for the Aam Aadmi Party to prove to its detractors that it is not just a flash in Delhi’s pan but has a gold-like luminescence that it wants every Indian to see in its Delhi model of governance.

Punjab is going for assembly elections next year in 2022. Like any other ambitious political party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also wants to increase its voter share in India and add some more MLAs to its bag of political victories.

There are 117 assembly seats in Punjab and any party that gets 59 seats gets a majority and forms the government. AAP has more or less firmly occupied the Delhi political landscape and Delhites have embraced the party and its policies. What AAP now wants is to get into governance mode in a bonafide state and implement the party’s heavily projected and promoted Delhi model of governance in that state.

Delhi or the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) is not a full-fledged state. It is a Union Territory of India. For an aspiring party like AAP and its larger-than-life National Convener of the party Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi is a small playground.

Kejriwal is in his 3rd term as chief minister of Delhi and has done what he and his government could do for Delhi since 2013 when he first became CM of Delhi. Apparently, residents of Delhi seem happy with Kejriwal government policies and their execution. They have voted AAP to power three times since 2013. This is the sentiment that Kejriwal and AAP want to cash in on when the assembly elections come calling next year in different states.

The Pull & Push of Punjab

Among all the states of India, the state of Punjab is dear to AAP for one obvious reason. During the General Election of 2014, the brand new entrant into Indian politics, Aam Aadmi Party won four MP seats from Punjab. This raised the eyebrows of all political parties and political commenters. It was a big surprise as it became clear that there was a state called Punjab where a section of its people had voted for AAP and given them a vote share.

In the 2017 assembly elections, AAP was confident that it would form the government in the state. However, its political stars and alignment were different. The party got the status of the main opposition in the Punjab Assembly by bagging 20 MLAs. As time went on, things started going downhill for the party in the state.

As a result of multiple factors, today, AAP has only 11 MLAs in Punjab. Whether internal politics, suspensions or defections, the party has been brainstorming now to keep its current flock of MLAs in play for the coming assembly elections. The party has announced the first list of ten candidates for the elections.

There have also been demands from some AAP supporters in Punjab to name MP from Sangrur Constituency Bhagwant Mann as the party’s CM face for the election. However, Kejriwal and the party’s think tank have not yet given any signal or positive nod for this demand.

There are also allegations by many political commenters that AAP has not been able to understand the true nature of Punjab and its residents. They are of the view that going strictly with a community or religion-based strategy to woo Punjab voters may not be the way.

There is a sizeable Dalit community too in the state and Congress has taken a strong foothold in this population by installing a Dalit Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. Channi has been doing his duty for Congress by announcing public welfare schemes and having them implemented as fast as possible before the Model Code of Conduct kicks in with the official announcement of the Punjab Assembly polls.

After the departure of Captain Amarinder Singh, there is positive word-of-mouth for the new CM Channi. There are sections of people who support him and Congress over either the known opposition SAD or the aggressive new opposition called AAP.

Survey Share for AAP

In a recent ABP-CVoter survey conducted in November 2021, the new CM Channi is seen to be gaining a higher percentage of points over AAP. The choice of chief minister is one where Congress is winning perception points. Even though the survey says that AAP has some edge over Congress, but not having a CM face in AAP may be a bit of a worry for the party.

The survey predicts AAP (51 seats), Congress (46 seats) and SAD (20 seats). The story of surveys will continue in December 2021 and January 2022 right up to the point the election results are announced. The survey is a statement on the fact that Punjab Assembly elections will be the first election in the state that will see the beginning of a new era post-Badal and Captain Amarinder.

Just a Thought

Kejriwal is making repeated visits to Punjab. He has been to Mohali, Moga and Amritsar meeting different sections of society, including the business community. Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia is also doing the rounds of different areas of Punjab to keep in touch with the party’s valuable voter base. This means that Kejriwal wants Punjab to be the stepping stone for the party’s success in Indian politics. There is an underlying sentiment among people for a change in governance that goes beyond that of Akali Dal and Congress.

Getting governance in Punjab and making a mark in assembly elections in other states would also mean gaining electoral strength and achieving that important tag of ‘National Party’ for AAP. The Sikh-centric Punjab population may want a more dominating local set of leaders to strategize and campaign for votes for the AAP. But, Punjab would have to accept for now that the party’s Delhi leadership would be in command while attempting to steer the party’s ship to the victory harbour in the state.

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