New Delhi: With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) making its achievements in the health and education sectors in Delhi its USP in poll-bound Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is countering with a campaign about the alleged liquor scam and governance failures in the national capital.
As AAP makes a concerted attempt to emerge as the principal challenger of the BJP in the two states, the latter’s Delhi unit has become a sort of nodal centre for the party units in Gujarat and Himachal to source material to highlight the Kejriwal government’s alleged failures.
For instance, the Delhi BJP has prepared videos supporting its claim that the AAP government in the capital has not fulfilled its promises. These clips are being circulated by the BJP’s Gujarat unit.
According to Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta, these videos feature residents who are “coming forward and highlighting how this government made tall promises but are indulging in only scams”.
“Whether it is higher education where they promised to provide loans to students, till now approvals to only two students seem to have been given and rest of the funds have been spent on advertising and highlighting themselves,” he told ThePrint.
Gupta added that these clips and other literature are posted on social media “to show the real face of AAP to the people”.
The BJP’s main focus ahead of elections seems to be the alleged liquor scam to blunt AAP’s anti-corruption plank, which the Kejriwal-led party seems to be highlighting in Gujarat as well as for the municipal elections in Delhi.
Speaking to ThePrint on condition of anonymity, an election strategist from the BJP said that the move will ensure that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is “kept on his toes” and won’t be able to concentrate on a single state.
Though the AAP is in government in Delhi, the BJP has been in power at the municipal level. The upcoming election is the first one to take place since the three municipal corporations were unified.
BJP sources said that with the delimitation exercise of civic wards almost done, the party is hoping that the Delhi municipal elections will be held alongside the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Hence, it is now getting more aggressive in tackling the AAP government in Delhi.
“AAP has been busy claiming that they will win the municipal elections easily so a loss in Delhi would only hurt their perception as they have been in power here. It being cornered at all the three places simultaneously: Delhi, Gujarat and Himachal will work in our favour,” the BJP poll strategist quoted earlier said.
Elections for Gujarat’s 182-member assembly are likely to be held later this year. The BJP, in power in Gujarat since 1995, is trying to improve the double-digit tally it recorded in the 2017 elections. The Congress put up a tough fight, winning 77 seats and confining the BJP to 99.
In the 2017 Himachal assembly polls, BJP won 44 of the state’s 68 seats, while the Congress scored 21. The Centre is keeping a close eye on both states and ensuring better coordination so they can share literature and experiences in targeting the AAP, sources said.
Weaponising the liquor scam
The new excise policy of the AAP government came into effect in Delhi from 1 October 2021. Under it, the government cancelled all existing licences and then divided Delhi into 32 zones. Following this, tenders were floated for ownership of bunches of 27 liquor shops in each zone.
The primary objective of the policy was to augment the national capital’s excise revenue. However, it was withdrawn by the AAP government in July after Lieutenant Governor (L-G) V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe into alleged irregularities in its execution.
The BJP has accused the AAP government of giving waivers to liquor firms that caused losses worth Rs 144.36 crore to the exchequer, and issuing a refund of Rs 30 crore earnest money deposit to a company that got a zonal licence without prior approval of the L-G or competent authority.
“The liquor scam will be one of the major issues that we will highlight as the party which came to power on an anti-corruption agenda in reality is indulging in corruption,” said Delhi BJP chief Gupta.
He added that they are fully prepared for the municipal elections “whenever they are held”.
Senior BJP ministers including Anurag Thakur and Meenakshi Lekhi have also been targeting the AAP government over the liquor scam. The BJP’s central leadership has held a number of press conferences at the party headquarters regarding the excise policy.
“The delimitation exercise is almost complete and the party is gearing up for the municipal elections in Delhi. There is a lot of coordination with Gujarat and Himachal too, especially in highlighting the liquor scam of Delhi and the failed promises made to Delhiites,” said another senior BJP leader, not wanting to be named.
Kejriwal’s Gujarat visit
Kejriwal was in Gujarat Monday as part of a two-day tour ahead of the state assembly elections.
Speaking to ThePrint, Yamal Vyas, spokesperson of Gujarat BJP, said that it was a “flop show” and that AAP has “exposed” itself and people will not believe in their lies.
“They first spread a rumour that a raid was conducted in their office to garner sympathy but it turned out to be a lie. Later they asked police to provide security and then misbehaved with them. If they have not been able to fulfil the promises made in a small state like Delhi, they stand no chance in Gujarat,” he added.
Vyas further said that the people of Gujarat are “very smart and understand all this”.
“We have been sharing the material of Delhi on our social media sites and are also going out and informing the voters not to fall for AAP,” he added.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)