Flying high on its broom, AAP could land on top in Mumbai

Feb 11, 2015, 06:32 IST | Dharmendra Jore and Varun Singh

Following their landslide victory in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party leaders say they will focus on Mumbai, Maharashtra with renewed vigour; their first stop is likely to be the 2017 BMC elections

When it rains, it pours, and no one knows this better than the Aam Aadmi Party at the moment. Branded runaways after Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation from the CM’s post last year, who was subsequently mocked following his crushing defeat at the hands of Narendra Modi in Varanasi in the Lok Sabha polls, the fledgling party is all anybody could talk about yesterday following its 67-seat win in Delhi.

Jubilant AAP workers and supporters celebrate the Delhi election results at the party’s Dadar office. Pic/Shadab Khan
Jubilant AAP workers and supporters celebrate the Delhi election results at the party’s Dadar office. Pic/Shadab Khan

Buoyed by the results, upbeat party members said they may no longer refrain from contesting elections in Maharashtra, like they did in the Assembly polls last year. And, in what could come as bad news for Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, he could find himself at the receiving end next time, with the AAP planning to take the battle to his bastion, the BMC, in 2017.

If political analysts are to be believed, other parties could be left biting the dust come 2019. Pic/PTI
If political analysts are to be believed, other parties could be left biting the dust come 2019. Pic/PTI

Political pundits concur and feel that if it plays its cards right, the AAP could well become the people’s voice, not only in Maharashtra, but even at the Centre by 2019.

Storms of change
It was just last May, when the Lok Sabha results had come out, that the AAP had been all but written off in Maharashtra, where not only had all its candidates lost, but 47 out of 48 even had to forfeit their security deposits. The party had then decided against contesting the Assembly elections in the state, a move that had been hailed as a wise one by pundits.

The party’s win in Delhi, where it won more than 90% of the seats a feat recorded by a solo party only twice before in Sikkim seems to have changed all that. AAP sources said they have plenty of time on their hands to portray someone as their face for the mayor’s post, work out a clear agenda, figure out the issues that matter to the aam aadmi, and get to work on them so that they have a foundation when the BMC elections come knocking.

“We had decided not to contest any other elections and concentrate only on Delhi. We are poor people and all the money that we had was put into the Delhi elections. We used all our resources, and we are happy with the results. And yes, the party will now focus on Maharashtra and Mumbai with more vigour,” said senior AAP leader and former state unit chief Anjali Damania.

Hitting back
Damania also sounded upset that Devendra Fadnavis had not even invited the AAP to his swearing-in ceremony. “The party which he had felt was so irrelevant that he didn’t even feel the need to invite its members to the swearing-in-ceremony has shown it’s relevance.

We will work with complete diligence and give it our all in Mumbai and Maharashtra too,” she said. Meera Sanyal, a member of AAP’s national executive, said, “We are a party that is trying to be disciplined now and, hence, my commenting on the Maharashtra issue won’t be a good thing.

We understand the cadre is excited and enthusiastic, but the state unit will take a call on it.” A senior party bearer claimed that the party would be deciding on how to go about the BMC polls in the coming days. “Having a mayoral candidate and fighting elections around her would be a good idea.

While nothing has been finalised yet, the Delhi results have definitely enthused the cadres here, who now want to be very active and sweep Mumbai and Maharashtra completely,” said the leader.

Pundits’ roadmap
Political experts that mid-day spoke to yesterday said that given the lack of any credible opposition in the state and the Centre, the AAP could become the principal challenger to the BJP by the time polls come around in 2019.

They said that the party could contest civic polls in Navi Mumbai, which will be held in April-May this year, and Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nagpur, which will go to polls in February 2017. They contend that with the Congress, NCP and the MNS fast losing support, AAP could expect to occupy a big space if it adopts the Arvind Kejriwal model in totality.

Political commentator Surendra Jondhale said the Delhi results would prove to be a shot in the arm for the state AAP unit and leave it aspiring for more. “Delhi’s is a stupendous show. In a way, it is also a retreat of the BJP.

It’s time AAP cashed in on public sentiment which is rising elsewhere against the BJP in view of its poor show in the past 9 months in the Centre,” he said. Jondhale expected AAP state leadership to quit cynicism and ad-hocism about electoral politics.

“I expect activists sitting on the fringe to start working seriously and build up a network in the cities and rural areas, where they have a target audience,” he said. According to him, the AAP workers who went to Delhi for campaigning should get the party working on the Capital model because the people in Mumbai middle/upper middle-class and the poor face issues similar to their Delhi counterparts.

“Mumbai’s cosmopolitan populace is sceptical because of RSS’ propaganda and agenda. AAP needs to network using such public sentiments.” Political analysts said AAP’s state leadership has been a bone of contention within the party.

Its core group has faced allegations of all kinds and is believed to have failed in taking the party forward through poor planning and poor representation of its policy. The people who led the India Against Corruption movement in Mumbai and rest of the state later spearheaded AAP in a manner that activists who joined them did not approve of.

The intra-party feud led to resignations of Anjali Damania and Preeti Menon, which were withdrawn later. Some well-known people, who are now basking in the Delhi glory, had dissociated from party’s activity even as Kejriwal continued to face odds over the past one year and still remained connected with the people.

Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal

'Need good leaders'
AAP sympathiser Vishwambhar Chaudhari blamed the party’s poor show in Maharashtra in the past on the selection of leadership. “The party needs to give vibrant faces with public standing. It needs youth.

It needs leaders with a clean image, who can attack governments on corruption issues,” Chaudhari said, adding that Kejriwal’s magic would not fade away so soon. “Maharashtra AAP needs to shed its elitist image. It must have leaders from all walks of life.

It needs to reach out to every household to establish local connections, which Kejriwal managed very successfully in New Delhi,” Chaudhari told mid-day. Former Congressman Ajit Sawant, who had quit the AAP over disagreement with top leaders, said the party had publicity hounds and businessmen with vested interests in its upper echelons in the state.

“One wins the right to claim a clean image by joining the AAP. Current AAP leaders are unaware of real socio-economic issues. They must know Kejriwal won handsomely because he raised issues that directly affect people. Mumbai too has such issues, which its leadership doesn’t want to raise for reasons best known to them.”

Tweet talk

>> Chetan Bhagat @chetan_bhagat: Shiv Sena praising AAP. Wonder if they realize AAP will come to Mumbai and do the same to them one day.

>> Aaditya Thackeray @AUThackeray: I congratulate #Delhi! They observed and chose, and chose decisively, after being left government-less n chaotic for a year. #DecisiveDelhi

>> Milind Deora @milinddeora: Congrats & best wishes to AAP. Takeaway: if you introspect fearlessly & communicate consistently, a “wave” becomes a mere media narrative

Saving grace
Chandrapur was the only seat in Maharashtra where the AAP did not have to forfeit its deposit in the LS polls last year. The party candidate was Wamanrao Sudaishirao

Did you know?
The Sikkim Democratic Front had won 32 out of 32 seats in the state in 2009, which had been done only once before, by the Sikkim Sangram Parishad in 1989

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