AAP to be the new political player? Expect shift in Opposition dynamics post Congress decimation

AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal could fancy his chances of becoming the pivot of Opposition unity, a position Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and TRS boss K Chandrashekar Rao are already vying for.
Aam Aadmi Party supporters celebrate in Amritsar, India, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (Photo | AP)
Aam Aadmi Party supporters celebrate in Amritsar, India, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (Photo | AP)

NEW DELHI: The decimation of the Congress in the state elections is set to hasten the dominance of regional players in the next general elections in 2024.

After spectacularly breaking the Punjab duopoly of the Congress or the Shiromani Akali Dal taking turns to rule the state, the AAP claimed bragging rights of becoming the national alternative to the grand old party.

AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal could fancy his chances of becoming the pivot of Opposition unity, a position Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and TRS boss K Chandrashekar Rao are already vying for.

The Congress no longer has a solid counter as it self-detonated itself in Punjab, messed up its best chance of wresting Uttarakhand and let Goa slip out.

At present, it is in power only in two states, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Besides, it is not in good health in at least one of the two states that will go to polls later this year, Gujarat and Himachal.

As AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh quipped, “Does Congress contest elections for winning? They are engaged in so much infighting and end up contesting each other.”

But Congress leader R S Surjewala said a nine-year-old party cannot replace the Congress legacy of seven decades and its status as the principal Opposition party.

Going forward, NCP chief Sharad Pawar emphasised on the need to initiate a process to evolve an effective alternative to the BJP.

All like-minded parties will sit together during the month-long Parliament session starting March 14 to discuss the future course of action, he informed.

The Aam Aadmi Party needs to perform well in the next set of assembly polls, likely to be held either later this year or early 2023, to become a claimant for National Party status.

A party needs State Party status in four states to automatically become a national party, a former Election Commission official said on Thursday quoting provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is already a State Party in Delhi and Punjab.

While it is already in power in Delhi, it is set to take over Punjab following its performance in the state.

Citing provisions of the Order, he said a party needs eight per cent of votes in a state to get State Party status.

"There are multiple alternatives. If a party gets six per cent votes and two seats in legislative assembly, it gets the status of a State Party. Another alternative to get State Party status is to get at least three seats in assembly irrespective of vote share," the former poll panel official said.

"There are provisions regarding performance in Lok Sabha polls too. But they are due in 2024," he said.

According to the latest trends available on the Election Commission website, the AAP has managed 6.77 per cent vote share in the Goa assembly polls.

The term of the Himachal Pradesh assembly ends on January 8, 2023, and that of Gujarat on February 18 next year.

The two elections can be held either late this year or early 2023.

The AAP has been working hard in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh preparing its ground for the polls.

According to the poll panel, at present, there are eight National Parties -- All-India Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Indian National Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and National People's Party.

With this, AAP has now got a full state to rule.

The other state where AAP is in power is Delhi, which is a union territory.

The party encashed on people's disillusionment with traditional outfits, sought a chance to bring about a change as AAP accused its rivals of looting the state.

The party's slogan "ik mauka Bhagwant Mann te Kejriwal nu" (one chance to Bhagwant Mann and Kejriwal) seems to have clicked among voters.

The party sought to replicate the Delhi model of governance in Punjab by improving the condition of schools and health facilities.

AAP also promised freebies like Rs 1,000 per month for women, free power up to 300 units and round the clock electricity to woo voters.

The announcement of Bhagwant Mann as the CM face before the polls also worked to its advantage.

The AAP's landslide victory showed that it performed well in all three regions--Malwa, Majha and Doaba.

AAP made its presence felt in the electoral space in 2014 when it won four Lok Sabha seats in Punjab.

The victory came at a time when the BJP performed very well throughout the country.

Though it could not perform as per its expectations in the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, yet it turned out to be the principal opposition party by winning 20 seats.

It performed well in the Malwa region by winning 18 seats.

But it could not perform in Doaba, where it just won two seats, and in Majha, it failed to win even a single seat.

The Malwa region accounts for 69 of the 117 Assembly seats.

However, the party faced internal bickering when several party MLAs rebelled against the Delhi leadership in 2019 while seeking autonomy for the state unit.

The party ended up runner up in 2017 polls and later its functioning was marred by factionalism and internal bickering.

Kejriwal came under attack from political opponents over allegations of supporting separatists on the basis of accusations of former AAP leader Kumar Vishwas.

The political rivals also described Kejriwal an "outsider" and called Bhagwant Mann as "dummy face" while the Delhi CM as the "real face" of AAP in Punjab.

The party also is hopeful of repeating its 'Punjab-type' performance in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, scheduled to be held later this year.

The ruling BJP, on the other hand, maintains that it will retain power in the hill state after its remarkable performances in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Buoyed with a landslide victory in neighbouring Punjab, Himachal Pradesh Aam Aadmi Party president Anup Kesri told PTI that the people of the state are 'fed up' with the traditional political parties.

"The AAP will create history in Himachal Pradesh like it has created in Punjab, and it will form its government in the hill state," he added.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party had failed to secure any seat in the previous elections in Himachal Pradesh, whereas it had won four Lok Sabha and 20 Vidhan Sabha seats in Punjab previously.

When asked about this, Kesri said the AAP had created its base in each of the 67 Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh.

"Further, the Punjab poll results will certainly have a positive impact on the AAP's performance in Himachal Pradesh," he said, adding that AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and other prominent leaders of the party are expected to visit the state soon.

A resident of Una district, Kesri said it was up to his party high command to decide where he will be fielded from.

The state's BJP chief spokesperson Randhir Sharma told PTI that his party will replicate its success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in Himachal Pradesh, too.

He said the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government was performing well and in the recent budget, it lowered the age limit for old age pension from 70 to 60 years.

"These measures will help the BJP to come to power again," he claimed.

On the AAP's claim, Sharma said that there was no scope for a third party in Himachal Pradesh.

"Such experiments were done earlier too, but they were not successful," he said.

The Opposition Congress, too, is hopeful of victory, particularly after its recent win in the bypolls.

(With PTI Inputs)

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