Gujarat elections 2022: Can gung-ho over AAP damage BJP on Modi’s home turf? | The Financial Express

Gujarat elections 2022: Can gung-ho over AAP damage BJP on Modi’s home turf?

The entry of the AAP has introduced a new frisson in the electoral contest, making it a three-way battle in Gujarat which has traditionally been politically bi-polar since the Janata Dal state unit disintegrated in the 1990s. 

Gujarat elections 2022: Can gung-ho over AAP damage BJP on Modi’s home turf?
Arvind Kejriwal has been leading his party’s campaign with multiple rallies and town-hall meetings in Gujarat. (Image: IE)

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has declared Isudan Gadhavi, a TV journalist-turned-politician, as the party’s chief ministerial face in Gujarat elections where AAP has marshaled all its resources to checkmate saffron storm in the upcoming battle of ballots where Narendra Modi-led BJP juggernaut looks all set to retain its seventh consecutive term in power. 

Taking a political plunge after quitting as editor of VTV, a local Gujarat news channel, Gadhavi joined the AAP last year. He is the national joint general secretary of the AAP and the main campaigner for the party in Gujarat, who has crisscrossed the length and breadth of the state addressing public meetings, holding roadshows.

With its high-decibel political campaigns, the entry of the AAP has introduced a new frisson in the electoral contest, making it a three-way battle in Gujarat which has traditionally been politically bi-polar since the Janata Dal state unit disintegrated in the 1990s. 

On the one hand is the BJP that hopes to ride the poll plank of a ‘double-engine sarkar’ with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its electoral mascot to create history by being in power for 32 years. On the other is AAP which looks determined to play spoilsport in what has traditionally been a straight Congress-BJP fight. 

Also Read | Who is Isudan Gadhvi, AAP’s best bet against BJP as CM face in Gujarat?

Set to contest all seats, AAP started its electoral campaigning much ahead of the BJP and Congress, leaving behind other parties far behind as far as announcement of candidates is concerned. The AAP on Thursday announced its ninth list of 10 candidates for the Gujarat polls, taking the number of candidates whose names have been announced so far to 118.

When AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal kick-started campaigning in Gujarat six months ago, no political party took it seriously. By the time the election dates were announced, AAP had already emerged as a force to reckon with. For rival parties, it has driven home a clear message that despite being a 10-year-old political outfit, it could potentially queer the poll pitch in Gujarat. 

Discussions around the AAP displacing Congress as the main opposition party has existed for some time now. However, such talks have now graduated to whether it could damage not just the Congress upset the BJP apple cart too. The chorus among political pundits is that AAP is far from being plain optics on Modi’s home turf, and has, instead, marked its footprint with substance.

Also Read | Gujarat Elections 2022: Can Modi factor guide BJP to another term in power?

Needless to say that AAP has caught up well with the electoral tricks of the BJP and the old Congress, shedding its image of a “naive” political party over the last 10 years. Social surveys have often pointed out that people, in general, are fed up with the old style of politics and want something new — they want performance to take precedence over politicking. In an evolving  perception of politics, AAP has set itself apart from other political hues.

Kejriwal has been leading his party’s campaign with multiple rallies and town-hall meetings. In a bid to woo voters and widen its outreach, the AAP has stressed on welfarism, raising its concerns related to day-to-day public issues. The campaigns of AAP supremo have gyrated around poll sops, including 300 units of free electricity per month, free education in government schools, unemployment dole, Rs 1,000 allowance to women and monthly stipend to new lawyers.

If opinion polls and pre-poll surveys are to be believed, the AAP looks set to make the biggest gains in the upcoming elections, establishing itself as the primary challenger to the BJP, displacing the Congress as the second largest party in the state. While the surveys give a clear majority to the ruling BJP, the AAP’s vote share appears to be rising fast. A month is a long time in politics, and one never knows which way the wind would blow when the state eventually goes to polls. 

On its part, the AAP seems to have checked all the boxes. It has made sure its presence is noticed and felt. Its high-pitched campaign has managed to make the right noises and its entire leadership has been visible on the ground. Whether the electorates pose their faith in AAP’s promise of “change” like they did in Punjab is too soon to assess. What is clear though is that AAP has announced its arrival and its intent clear in Gujarat. It is here to stay.        

Gujarat will go to polls in two phases, on December 1 and December 5, and the counting of the votes will be taken up on December 8.

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First published on: 07-11-2022 at 17:08 IST