The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has launched a campaign blitzkrieg in Gujarat, the home turf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, under the leadership of its commander-in-chief and the party’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal. Elections to the 182-member Gujarat Assembly are scheduled later this year. Buoyed by the massive win in Punjab earlier this year, the AAP is leaving no stone unturned to wrest power in this BJP bastion which the Delhi CM has already visited five times in August alone.
Speaking exclusively to Financial Express Online, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Gujarat president Gopal Italia discusses the party’s vision for the 2022 Gujarat elections, the issues faced by the Gujarat electorate, the party’s campaign strategy, among others.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
How does AAP plan to establish itself in a state which is a BJP bastion?
People in the state have been voting for the BJP for a long time now. However, citizens have now come to believe that the BJP is not doing anything for them, it is only involved in corruption, and people are looking for an alternative. So, to fight the BJP, the most important thing is the support from people. If people themselves don’t want change, then it makes no difference which party comes. But, when people themselves want the government to change, then it does not matter how big a party or a leader is.
In Gujarat, the current environment is that people want change — which party it is, who is the leader, what is their standing in the global world, no one is really bothered. This time, Gujarat has decided to give a chance to Arvind Kejriwal. People have decided that BJP should no longer be in power in the state.
Gujarat has always seen a Congress-BJP contest. What gives AAP the confidence that it can come to power in the 2022 polls?
I reiterate that when people want change, then a king can be dethroned and a common man can rise to power. So, in the past, when such events have occurred (referring to third fronts), then people didn’t want change. But, the difference this time is that people have expectations from AAP.
In today’s time, AAP is the second front. In the first front, the BJP and Congress are together, as both are the same. All top leaders of both the political parties are together, involved in corruption and equally reaping its economic benefits. So, people want an alternative of both the BJP and the Congress, and that will be AAP.
What are the main issues faced by people, and how does the AAP plan to solve them?
Among the five primary problems that are common among all sections of the society, are inflation and unemployment. Prices of commodities have risen so much that people have started to say that the reason for inflation is BJP’s involvement in corruption. It wouldn’t be unfair to assume that inflation as well as rising unemployment exist in Gujarat only because of corruption.
The third issue is electricity. How can a poor family run its household with such high electricity rates? In all districts of the state, everyone is angry over electricity bills. The fourth issue is BJP’s dictatorial attitude (tanashaahi). At all places, people are being threatened, they are being controlled. The electorate is angry with such fear tactics, and are saying that this can’t go on. The fifth is the farmers’ issue. Farmers in the state are facing multiple issues – be it water, electricity or the issue of Minimum Support Price (MSP). They are not getting what is due.
We just want to show people that if schools can provide quality education in Delhi, it is also possible in Gujarat. If the government is able to provide employment opportunities in Punjab and Delhi, they can also do so in Gujarat. In Delhi and Punjab, the AAP government has provided free electricity (upto certain units). In Gujarat, too, one can enjoy free electricity. Corruption is over in Delhi, in Punjab the government is working towards ending corruption. In Gujarat, too, corruption would be over. AAP is giving examples, that all these are possible, but the only condition is that people elect an honest government. The Gujarat electorate is watching these changes through various platforms and are convinced that there can be change, and it must come.
What are the issues that are faced by rural Gujarat and what is AAP’s vision to solve it?
The main problems be it rural or urban Gujarat are the same. In rural Gujarat, the biggest issue is that there is no employment. If a girl or a boy receives education, the main problem they face is that of jobs, there are no jobs for them. So, the only option to get jobs is to forcefully migrate to tier-2 or metro cities. The next issue is that there are no hospitals or schools in the rural areas. In all rural areas, the main issue is that if one has to receive education… where to go? If one has to get medical treatment, where does one go? The BJP government has projected things in a certain way, while the reality is different.
What are the main issues in the education sector of the state and what does AAP propose to do?
The BJP has privatised the education sector. From primary schools to universities, everything has been privatised. If you have money, only then can you receive education. If not, then you will remain illiterate, or study only till primary classes. The biggest problem is the entire system of education has been privatised, and the business of education could amount to more than Rs 20,000 crore, and the BJP is earning money from it. This is causing frustration among people.
There is awareness even among the rural electorate, that the children must receive education, but there are no schools, teachers are not being hired, private schools are hiking their fees exorbitantly. The solution that Kejriwal has is this – there will be quality, world-class, good infrastructure schools in Gujarat. All children will get the chance to get a quality education. This is our solution.
Arvind Kejriwal has linked the raids at Delhi deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s house to the Gujarat polls. Your comments?
This is obvious. If BJP is saying that it has worked in Gujarat, then what are they scared of? If they have run the government in the state for 27 years, and have said that they have done a lot of work, then why are they scared of AAP? We are the smallest party in the world. In Gujarat, a relatively new party, then why are they so scared that they have put all central agencies against ministers? What benefits will they reap? People are seeing through everything. This “CBI politics” will not work anymore. Only schools, hospitals, and issues of the common man will work.
What is the campaign strategy of AAP, is it different for the rural and the urban electorate?
We are focusing on the basic issues of the common man. Let’s consider electricity, education or even healthcare, these necessities are common for both the rural and the urban people. We are reaching to each person and our campaign strategy involves door-to-door campaign, rallies, or padayatras (foot march), reaching out via social media or press conferences, and telling the masses that if AAP is voted to power, the party will give better medical facilities, will build schools, will finish corruption, and provide employment, and these promises are made to both rural and urban voters.
So, we are undertaking a very simple campaign, that touched upon all the basic issues of voters.