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AAP completes five years, calls for BJP's ouster from Gujarat

Kejriwal's appeal suggests the party is coming to terms with its role as the third pole of Indian politics

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during a convention to mark the party's 5th Foundation Day at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during a convention to mark the party's 5th Foundation Day at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which was founded on November 26, 2012, turned five this Sunday. At a public rally to mark the occasion, party chief asked people in Gujarat to vote for any party that could defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The is the principal opposition party in Gujarat and the only party in the state with the wherewithal to challenge the BJP.

The had formed its first government in Delhi with the outside support of the in 2013 but has generally remained equidistant from the BJP as well as the

Earlier this year, had contested the assembly polls in and The performed poorly in In Punjab, it had hoped to form the government. It ended up being the principal opposition party in the state. At a book launch event on Friday, Kejriwal said that his party continued to believe the (EVMs) were rigged in assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and

In the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls, the was expected to field several candidates. But Kejriwal on Sunday indicated that his party was willing to move away from its sentiment of anti-Congressism. Several other parties, born either out of anti-Congressism or from within the Congress, are recasting their electoral constructs to appeal for anti-BJPism. These include the Trinamool Congress, and

But the Congress, particularly its Delhi leadership, is unlikely to allow any possible understanding between and itself. The party has resisted moves by other opposition parties, particularly the Trinamool Congress, to have join the 17-party Opposition alliance that the currently leads inside Parliament. party spokesperson Pawan Khera tweeted to remind Kejriwal and his supporters that their initial ‘India Against Corruption’ movement in 2011 was accomplished with the support of the (RSS) and Vivekananda International Foundation.

Kejriwal’s appeal suggests the party is coming to terms with its role as the third pole of the Indian The is young, and so is its leadership. It has much lesser baggage than other parties. It is also the only instance, after that of the in the 1980s and 1990s, of a new political party successfully contesting elections within years of its inception and capturing political power. Its recent mistakes aside, the still has the credibility and the potential to be the conscience keeper of Indian - a space that the increasingly feeble Left parties had once occupied.

The AAP’s first five years have seen incredible highs and lows. After its impressive show in the in 2013, the party performed below expectations in the Activist groups and grassroots workers had come together to contest on tickets in 2014. It had contested over 400-seats and won only four. The AAP, like most others, were blown away by the The AAP’s next big moment came in February 2015. It won 67 of the 70 assembly seats in the Delhi assembly. For the first time since 2014 Lok Sabha, it showed Modi’s magic might not work if faced with a credible local leader.

But, Kejriwal lost popular support among the middle classes soon after. He also became increasingly autocratic, surrounding himself with a coterie of men comprising and others, while engineering to throw out founding members like Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan, and Ajit Jha. There has also been a constant tug of war between Centre appointed Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and Kejriwal-led government.

Kejriwal and his supporters attribute their party’s loss of middle class support base to the abuse and misinformation by the But it is also true that people didn’t take kindly to Kejriwal calling names when the latter’s credibility remains high in large parts of India.

Of late, Kejriwal has shown more discrimination in commenting about Modi. The Delhi government has also tried to consolidate its position by focusing on delivering better governance, particularly in health and school. Indications are that continues to hold on to its support base among the poor, while the middle classes have slipped away.

Meanwhile, AAP’s ambitions have taken a beating. Its presence in other states is dwindling. This could explain Kejriwal’s appeal to people to support the in Gujarat. The 2019 Lok Sabha election would be a test for Could it aspire to be a player? Early next year, the will debut in the Rajya Sabha with three seats. This would be an opportunity for to send members who would help it punch above its weight.

First Published: Mon, November 27 2017. 17:33 IST
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