New Delhi: A conclave in Rajasthan, two roadshows in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and rallies to be held in Telangana and Chhattisgarh: Top leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have their calendars booked for the next three weeks, ThePrint has learnt.
In nine states including these five, the AAP appointed new office-bearers Monday, entrusting them with building a volunteer base, helping with organisational structure and preparing for polls — a development that indicated that after a massive victory in Punjab, the AAP is taking bold steps towards making itself visible in more states, in line with its nationwide expansion plan.
Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are supposed to go to assembly polls later this year, and Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana in 2023.
Notably, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are ruled by the Congress — a party that the AAP, in its own words, claims to be replacing in a “natural” and “national” fashion.
The AAP is preparing to organise a two-day conclave in Jaipur on 26-27 March, in which Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh is to take part in deliberations about politics and policy, said Delhi MLA Vinay Mishra, the party’s election in-charge for Rajasthan.
“All district-level leaders and party workers in Rajasthan, as well as people from different walks of life such as traders, youngsters, village-level leaders, etc. will participate in the conclave. The idea is to discuss political agendas, visions, and policies,” Mishra told ThePrint.
In the previous assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the AAP had fielded candidates in most of these states but was unable to win any seats or touch the 1 per cent mark in terms of vote share, according to Election Commission records.
But things have changed after the victory in Punjab, said AAP’s Chhattisgarh election in-charge Gopal Rai.
“We have received overwhelming responses from these states. A large number of people want to join the AAP. So, it is important for us to keep organising more events across states in the days to come, so that more people join the party,” said Rai, who is also a minister in the AAP government’s cabinet in Delhi.
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Movement in states
In Raipur, Chhattisgarh, the party held a rally Monday, and plans to organise another in some other city in the state in the first week of April, a party functionary told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
In Gujarat, the AAP won seats and grabbed decent vote shares in local elections over the past one-and-a-half years. “But there is more to be done,” said Rajesh Sharma, the AAP’s former Gujarat in-charge, who has now been deputed to Assam.
“Over the last few years, the party witnessed huge support in Gujarat. The development model of the party and the example of Delhi has clearly left a mark in the minds of people. In Assam too, people have started showing trust in the AAP. While we have already come a long way in Gujarat, in Assam we see huge potential,” he said.
The party plans to organise roadshows in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh on 2 April and Ahmedabad in Gujarat on 6 April, ThePrint has learnt. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann are likely to be the chief guests leading the two roadshows, said another senior party functionary who didn’t wish to be identified.
The party has put the “Delhi model” at the centre of its campaign in all these states — much as it did in Punjab, said the aforementioned state office bearers.
The Delhi model essentially refers to a governance model that emphasises development and welfare policies, citing the example of the capital, where the AAP has been in power with a majority since 2015.
However, in every state, these leaders said, they are also particular on being inclusive about state-specific issues. For instance, in Himachal it’s the issue of connectivity, with a lack of roads connecting towns with villages. In Rajasthan, it’s the issue of electricity being too expensive. In Assam, it’s drinking water.
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Dreams of going national
The AAP has appointed Delhi MLA Somnath Bharti as its election in-charge in Telangana. Bharti told reporters Monday that the AAP is heavily invested in setting up a cadre in the state and eventually contesting polls with a development agenda. He further said that the party will be organising “mega drives” to induct more volunteers and rallies in the next two weeks.
Earlier this month, Bharti had criticised the policies of Telangana CM K. Chandrashekar Rao, alleged corruption in his government, and called him “Chhota Modi”, triggering speculation that AAP’s entry could be a setback for Rao’s efforts to forge a “third front”.
For the past few months, Rao and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee have been leading an initiative to build a non-Congress, non-Bharatiya Janata Party united front of regional leaders, for which they have been meeting their counterparts in other states, but excluded Kejriwal.
Banerjee is an old ally of Kejriwal, but their relationship is believed to have soured when the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief announced that her party would contest the elections in Goa, where the AAP was already preparing for polls.
The AAP is yet to appoint an election in-charge or observers in West Bengal, but last week it organised a rally in Kolkata, and the party is reportedly preparing for panchayat polls in the state.
AAP leaders assert that the victory in Punjab has put Kejriwal in a position in which he can refrain from joining any camp, and push himself as the face of the Opposition ahead of the 2024 general election if he plays his cards right.
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