This is no news that AAP has felt extremely shackled in its manoeuvre in Delhi. That they neither have police, nor local government or the power to change land-use in Delhi with them; has forced them to look up to the Central Government in order to solve every issue ranging from law and order to cleanliness to opening of new schools. The AAP leadership maintains that this has severely hampered their efforts towards development in spite of their political will. They also swear that had Delhi been awarded full statehood, they would have shown the kind of development which would have no parallels.
It is therefore logical that AAP will repeat the same promises in Punjab in the run up to elections. And considering it is Punjab, they are also banking on the slogan of restoring the “lost honour” of the state, whatever that means. However, AAP believes that they have stuck a chord with the masses and their message is resonating. In their rallies they have been repeatedly telling those attending that they need full majority like they were awarded in Delhi. No less.
“We have to depend on Central Government for development in Delhi. This has slowed our efforts toward fulfilling the promises. But since the situation in Punjab is fundamentally different, we will be able to work without any hindrance if brought to power,” says Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, while talking to The Sunday Indian.
The situation in Punjab is interesting to say the least. Because of the massive anti-incumbency, Shiromani Akali Dal is on a rapid decline. Congress, on the other hand, is not very confident of forming the government alone. Congress’ Chief Ministerial candidate, Captain Amrinder Singh, is of the opinion that there is a direct fight between Congress and AAP there. AAP, on the other hand, is very confident and it shows in their body language. Party’s Punjab in-charge, Sanjay Singh, while talking to TSI, said that he is sure that the party will have a complete majority in the state as it has in Delhi.
“This is a fact that AAP has national appeal and India is looking for an alternative”
Ashutosh, Senior Leader, Aam Aadmi Party
AAP is a growing political party which has fairly good chances in Punjab. How do you see its political tally in state legislative elections?
There is a wave for AAP in Punjab today. The debate is not if AAP will win Punjab but the question people are asking is how many seats will AAP win. Will AAP cross 100 seats out of 117, is the moot point. There is hatred against the Akali Dal-BJP alliance. They have destroyed the youth of Punjab. The electorate is ready to teach them a lesson. I will be surprised if Akali Dal reaches double digits. Congress is already riddled with factionalism and fighting for its survival; and it has failed to enthuse people of Punjab with the help of rejected faces. There is no hope for it. People don’t see much difference between them and Akali Dal.
What are the next states where AAP is preparing its political turf?
AAP is not an election machine. It is not in a hurry. It wants to consolidate its gains and then move on to the next level. There is no denying the fact that AAP has a national appeal and India is looking for an alternative. People are fed up with traditional politics and political parties. This is a time for political renaissance in India.
Are you sure of returning to power in Delhi once again? If yes, what is the basis of this confidence?
We are 200% sure. Not because we are over-confident but because the AAP government has created a goodwill among people that this is the government which is working for the people and does not believe in false promises. It is an honest government and is honestly delivering for the people. We have already delivered on our promises of water and electricity. Major reforms are underway in the field of education and health and attempts are to make these two areas, world class and no less inferior to the standards at top class private institutions.
What future of AAP do you foresee in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
In one word, it’s very bright; but frankly, we are not looking too far. We are concentrating in Delhi to give a new model of development and governance. And yes, also focussing on Punjab in a big way. 2019 is three years away. It can wait. The Punjab victory will be the gateway to India for AAP.
If so, what are the political virtues of AAP for becoming a substitute to Congress and BJP; virtues that these parties don’t have?
We are not substitutes to any political party. We are here to change the politics of India and we will. Change has already been ushered in at Delhi, and soon AAP’s impact will be visible all across.
And come to think of it, when Amrinder Singh himself concedes that the battle is with AAP, it is but natural that the latter is buoyant. But they are not letting their enthusiasm get ahead of themselves. To counter a stalwart like Amrinder Singh, AAP can use its biggest trump card of declaring Kejriwal as the Chief Ministerial candidate. And that is not all. AAP understands that the issue of drug epidemic, spiking divorces and other social issues can be effectively tackled by female lawmakers than males. Even the issue of foeticide can be effectively tackled by female lawmakers. AAP is therefore all set to give away the lion’s share of its tickets to female candidates. While they are not mentioning it, it is also true that women can emerge as a separate vote bank as well.
But Punjab is not the destination. It is but a stop in the way of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. AAP believes that if it can win Punjab, it can send serious signals to the electorate all over India that it is a viable alternative to Congress and BJP all over the country. There are rumours inside the party that Manish Sisodia will be slowly honed to take over the reign of Delhi while Kejriwal concentrates on Punjab. Only if the experiment is successful in Punjab that AAP will look towards other states.
While there are elections in UP, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well, they are presently out of the party’s radar. It believes that in those states where regional parties are stronger, there is no point wasting time and money in fighting for a losing cause there. The Party’s strategy for the time being will remain extending support to those regional parties who are fighting both Congress and BJP and have some sort of ideological resonance with AAP.
They are here to stay. There’s no hurry. They will take it one at a time.