New Delhi: Over 24 hours after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s emphatic victory in the Punjab assembly polls, in which it trounced traditional parties in the state like the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), not a single Opposition leader has congratulated AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The AAP, considered to be the ‘outsider’ in the state won 92 seats in the 117-strong assembly. Despite this astounding verdict, no Opposition leader across the country — whether it is Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray or Telangana CM K. Chandrashekar Rao — have reached out or publicly congratulated Kejriwal, a normal practice after a big victory.
Mamata Banerjee at a news briefing Friday said that the BJP’s record win in Uttar Pradesh was not a popular mandate but victory attained with the help of “election machinery and Central forces and agencies”.
She did not mention AAP or Arvind Kerjiwal.
After the poll results were announced Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted about the inauguration of a new bridge, while Stalin addressed a video conference.
The silence of the Opposition leaders is telling, because right after the mandate the Trinamool Congress (TMC) got at the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections, multiple leaders of non-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) parties met to potentially form a third front for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
As talks of a third front to challenge the BJP gathered pace last year and earlier this year, KCR and Mamata Banerjee took the initiative to build an anti-BJP and anti-Congress alternative.
Indeed, Kejriwal was not made part of any of the discussions among leaders about a Third Front.
The only Opposition leader who acknowledged the AAP’s victory in Punjab was Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.
Shortly after the victory Thursday, Pawar in a tweet called AAP the new “national party” after its victory in Punjab. “Punjab is the closest state to Delhi. Therefore, the effect of Delhi’s work was felt in Punjab as well,” he said.
TMC draws blank in Goa, AAP hit out at ‘Chhota Modi’
The rise of AAP as a potential national alternative to the BJP has been a stunning development, with the party spreading its base beyond Delhi.
The party has now not only won an absolute majority in Punjab, but also made inroads in Goa, winning two assembly constituencies.
Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, which also contested the Goa elections to expand its base and poached leaders from other parties, such as former Goa CM Luizinho Faleiro, drew a blank in the Goa assembly polls, unable to win a single seat. It only got 5.21 per cent of the votes.
AAP MLA and Telangana in-charge Somnath Bharti Tuesday sharply criticised KCR, calling him “Chhota Modi” and “arrogant”. While hitting out at the Telangana budget, he also alleged that KCR distributed government jobs among family members.
“A ray of hope has appeared in the form of Kejriwal for the entire country. This hope is as much for you as it is for Punjab, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Goa, or Uttar Pradesh. We will make ourselves available there (in Telangana) very soon, and we will provide the people of Telangana with all the schemes that are already accessible in Delhi,” Bharti told a news organisation.
Among the few leaders from the Congress to congratulate Kejriwal were Shashi Tharoor and Milind Deora.
Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya Singh tweeted that AAP would only win in those states where BJP has no stakes.
On another post, he drew a comparison between former comedian and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, also a former comedian. “Time has come for Comedians and Satirists to take to Politics!!” he wrote.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi said he “humbly accepted” the people’s verdict.
A few BJP leaders greeted the AAP on its victory. Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the party and assured “all possible support from the Centre for Punjab’s welfare.”
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)