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Congress worried, BJP amused as Kejriwal’s AAP looks to trek Uttarakhand hills for 2022 polls

Aam Aadmi Party is offering concessions on power and water bills, while also promising better education and health facilities, apart from taking care of unemployment.

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Dehradun: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has launched a concerted campaign in Uttarakhand, where it is looking to make inroads ahead of the 2022 assembly elections in the state. 

AAP leaders and political analysts say both the ruling BJP and Congress are feeling the heat of the campaign, but the two major parties insist that they are not unduly worried.

Uttarakhand AAP leaders say the party will contest in all 70 seats in the state but added that their main focus will only be on half of them. 

The AAP’s chief ministerial face in the state, Col Ajay Kothiyal (retd), told The Print that the party would emerge as a strong alternate third force in Uttarakhand. He claimed AAP will knock on every house in the state virtually and physically to win over voters. 

The party, he added, will offer concessions on power and water bills, while also promising better education and health facilities. 

“If elections are held today, we will get nearly 16-17 per cent of the votes but we are trying to cross 25 per cent, with complete focus on 35 of the 70 assembly segments,” Col Kothiyal said. “We are focussing only on key issues of power, water, health, education and unemployment, which is the chief cause of mass migration from the hills.” 

According to Kothiyal, the AAP is trying to convince voters of how the BJP and the Congress failed them and did nothing to utilise the state’s resources for their well being despite being in power for over 20 years. 

“Apart from our campaign, heavy anti-incumbency against the BJP will also help us, as people are looking for a strong third alternative this time,” Kothiyal added.

Also read: 2018 land law pits Congress vs BJP vs BJP in Uttarakhand as the big poll issue in 2022

No booth committees, guarantee cards, 200 campaign vehicles 

The AAP has already swung into action in the state, but is not following the traditional booth-level electoral campaigns or addressing rallies to attract voters. 

The party’s workers are using the state’s database of nearly 50 lakh power consumers to win voters’ confidence. 

They have been contacting domestic power consumers to enroll them online through a portal and are providing them with electricity guarantee cards. 

The party has promised that if voted to power, the cards will guarantee 300 units of free power supply. 

The party plans to hold four more card campaigns on education, free water, health and employment in the coming months. 

“Around 15 lakh households have registered online with us to receive these cards. They are being informed about our electoral promises on free power supply and waiving off more than 65,000 inflated electricity bills in the state,” said Divyashish, AAP’s chief strategist in Uttarakhand. “After power, four more card campaigns will be held in coming days.”  

The party has also hired nearly 200 vehicles carrying photographs of Arvind Kejriwal and Kothiyal, which have been doing the rounds in the hills while canopy booths have been set up to detail what the party has to offer in state elections. 

“Rallies and public meetings help us meet voters only once but online offers the opportunity to reach out to them multiple times,” said Ashutosh Negi, AAP’s state general secretary. “The guarantee cards campaign will help us obtain a comprehensive database to complement our present virtual campaigns with door-to-door contacts and public addresses.” 

The AAP is also banking on its Delhi model of governance as nearly a month ago, 70 vehicles fitted with LED screens were sent off to every Uttarakhand constituency showing videos of the Kejriwal government’s performance in the national capital. 

According to the state party leadership, it was a move to draw voters’ attention towards AAP. 

Also read: My removal as Uttarakhand CM not the right decision, was untimely, Trivendra Rawat says

Battling anti-incumbency, BJP amused by AAP’s rise 

The AAP’s efforts come amid efforts by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to arrest anti-incumbency against his ruling BJP. 

The party is facing many challenges on the ground, from crumbling infrastructure, especially poor roads, unemployment, demands for regularisation of contractual government employees, to latent anger against the government’s poor Covid handling and a demand for restrictive land law against outsiders.

But BJP leaders feel the AAP’s rise will help their cause in the assembly elections. 

“AAP’s rise will covertly help us by dividing anti-establishment and minority votes to stall the Congress’ gains. Even Congress leaders are concerned about it,” a BJP spokesperson, unwilling to be named, said. 

BJP leaders also believe that AAP will lose its sheen before polls as Uttarakhand voters “have a national outlook”. 

“Majority of the 20 lakh Uttarakhand-origin people in Delhi have rejected the AAP government there,” the BJP’s chief spokesperson Manbir Chauhan said. “They are consistently providing feedback to us on the Kejriwal government’s poor performance. It’s result will be seen in the Uttarakhand polls. They will be exposed before the voters here.” 

Impact only in plains not in hills: Congress

The Congress, the principal opposition party, believes AAP’s rise will not hamper its electoral prospects. 

“AAP is yet to bring up itself as a potential force in the state. They have no presence in the hills. It’s working like the B-team of the BJP but voters understand that. AAP will not impact Congress’ prospects in 2022 polls,” said leader of the opposition in the house and former PCC president Pritma Singh.

“At this stage it appears they may have some impact in the assembly segments lying in Haridwar, Udhamsingh Nagar and plains of Dehradun and Nainital districts but that will not last long as the polls come closer. AAP’s fate depends on the faces they will field,” said PCC general secretary Rajendra Shah.

Political experts in the state, however, believe that the Congress will be hampered by AAP’s efforts but added that the BJP will also feel the pinch. 

“Firstly, AAP will fill the gap of 10-11 per cent non-Congress, non-BJP vote shares in the state. It will consume a chunk of minority votes of the Congress. BJP too will be impacted as a large section of its voters are looking for non-Congress alternatives. Today they are fence-sitters,” said the Dehradun-based political commentator Jai Singh Rawat.

“AAP may not win too many seats but can dampen the prospects of several BJP and the Congress candidates. It will be more clear once ticket allocation begins as several known faces may switch over to AAP from the BJP and the Congress,” Haridwar-based political analyst Bhagirath Sharma said. 

This will be AAP’s debut foray in the state, where the Congress and BJP have alternately held power since its inception in 2000.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Harish Rawat wins this round in faction-ridden Uttarakhand Congress, emerges unchallenged leader


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