The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have got its mojo back, geared up by a recent electoral victory that has given it new momentum.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have got its mojo back, geared up by a recent electoral victory that has given it new momentum. From MLAs staging a sit-in outside the Delhi Lt Governor’s office to the party recently announcing it would contest the Gujarat polls, the Bawana by-poll victory appears to have revived the party. AAP, which was maintaining a low profile after a series of defeats, has recovered its voice and sharpened its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government after winning the by-poll on August 28 by over 24,000 votes.
In the recent past, it has taken on the RSS-BJP over demonetisation, the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh and a range of other issues. The party recently also said it would contest the Gujarat assembly polls, a decision it had put in cold storage after AAP’s poor show in the Punjab and Goa polls, and subsequently in the MCD local elections. On August 30, 45 AAP MLAs parked themselves at the Raj Niwas for over six hours, demanding that Lt Governor Anil Baijal clear the mohalla clinic file — for neighbourhood health centres — at the earliest. The mohalla clinic project is a flagship project of the Delhi government.
The file was cleared by Baijal in less than a week. “The Bawana by-poll victory has brought in a lot of positivity among our workers,” AAP leader Ashutosh said. Till the party was besieged by problems, AAP was seldom out of the news with regular news conferences by the party top brass, tweets by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attacking the BJP and Modi and boisterous verbal assaults by the CM reflecting the party’s aggressive strategy. The party’s plan was to catapult to the national scene by 2017.
But the string of poor performances in Punjab and Goa in March shattered the morale of the cadre. The humiliating defeat in the Rajouri Garden by-poll, where it was ousted by the BJP, and the MCD polls hammered their confidence further. Electoral defeats were just one side of the story, as the party also came under attack from its own members. Sacked Delhi minister Kapil Mishra and Kumar Vishwas, AAP’s founder- member and a popular face among the cadre, took the leaders on, openly questioning the top brass over the defeats. The number of volunteers who used to flock to the party office at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg also started thinning.
Kejriwal, on the back foot, muted his attacks on his political foes. Even the daily torrent of tweets directed against Modi and the BJP became an occasional trickle. But Bawana seems to have given the party the thrust it sorely needed. “The Bawana by-poll was an acid test. Our attempt was not to fall in the BJP Congress rhetoric but the focus was to publicise the work done by the Delhi government. And we were successful in this,” said Deepak Bajpai, AAP’s national treasurer and campaign in-charge for the Bawana polls.
AAP started overhauling its Delhi unit after its defeats earlier this year. All hands were on deck for the Bawana by- poll, and Kejriwal himself campaigned in the constituency more than a half-a-dozen times to ensure a victory. AAP fielded Ram Chandra while the BJP, its nearest rival, had given the ticket to Ved Prakash, a former AAP MLA who had quit the party and ahead of the MCD polls.
Ram Chandra trounced Prakash by over 24,000 votes. The party denied that there has been a change in its strategy, but leaders conceded that the cadre had received a much need morale boost after the victory. Richa Pandey Mishra, president of AAP’s women wing, said, “There is a positive vibe among the party workers and they are feeling motivated after the win.” It is now to be seen whether the positivity will percolate in terms of electoral gains in Gujarat later this year.