The more the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal fights the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the better for the saffron bandwagon. This is so as elections in three crucial states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are only a few months away where the AAP may try its luck to settle scores with the BJP. And this may well go on until the nationwide general elections in 2019.
The reason for taking on the BJP alone in states other than Delhi must be best known to the AAP leaders in general and Kejriwal and his minister and cohort Gopal Rai in particular. Yet, the fact is that the AAP strategists opt to join the electoral battle only in states where the Congress alone is better placed to challenge the BJP. A candidate from a third party in these states could only suit the BJP because this could turn the contest triangular and possibly split the anti-BJP votes.
This happened earlier in the Gujarat and the Karnataka Assembly elections where the Congress was the main contender against the BJP and yet the AAP fielded candidates on select seats.
Also Read Opinion | Justice Joseph's elevation to SC: Policy of checks and balance needed
Although the Kejriwal’s party drew a blank in the two states and the BJP emerged as the single largest party in both, the AAP has hardly learnt any lessons from its debacle. And in the last year’s Punjab polls, the same formula of shouting against the BJP but targeting the Congress in the process also could not help the AAP much.
Yet, the party this time has decided to contest all the seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh though its chances of making a mark in any of these states are too thin to take note of except the fact that its candidates would join the raga of fighting corruption alongside that of the BJP to target the Congress in their own way. This is more so since both the AAP and the BJP are children born out of the faultlines of Anna Hazare’s Indian against Corruption (IAC) movement that had taken Delhi over half-a-decade ago from now with an overwhelming feeling against the Congress.
In fact, while sharing the spoils in the aftermath of the IAC movement, the AAP ended up in capturing power in Delhi though it had national ambitions. Unlike this, the NDA or the BJP generally and Prime Minister Narendra Modi mainly seized the power at the Centre despite the fact that earlier he has simply been a state or Gujarat’s leader for long. Hence, ever since the AAP has been trying to reverse the roles which began though unsuccessfully for Kejriwal with the electoral battle for Varanasi fought directly between him and Modi in 2014.
This was amid promises from both the contestants to root out corruption by appointing an ombudsman or Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the state-level in keeping with the spirit of the Anna movement. It never happened. And new cases of corruption like Vyapam, or recruitment, scandal in Madhya Pradesh and rice scam in Chhattisgarh surfaced. These are bound to dog the ruling party and their BJP chief ministers in the two states.
Yet, the actual question that the AAP tries to invariably rake up by throwing its hat in state elections vowing to defeat the BJP is that who is the genuine successor of the Congress? And since this question is redundant in states where Congress is not in the reckoning and regional forces hold the ground, the AAP never ventures to join the fray when elections come at such places. This has been the case in polls in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 and Bihar in 2015. On both these occasions for Assembly polls in the two States the AAP never moved and preferred to keep its role confined to Delhi.
And as once again polls are nearing in states where the Congress stands a good chance to take on the BJP on its own, the AAP is again on the prowl.
Read More Opinion | Is NRC a political tool?
Gopal Rai has stated that his party will contest all the 200 seats in Rajasthan, 230 in Madhya Pradesh and 90 in Chhattisgarh. For Madhya Pradesh, Kejriwal has also declared the name of AAP’s candidate for the chief minister post. Kejriwal has held a public meeting at Indore where AAP’s bet for the top job of the state Alok Agarwal also appeared at the stage with Kejriwal.
These moves by the AAP make it virtually the first party to start its campaign for the upcoming polls in the three states. And names of a few candidates have also been declared by the party for each of the three states with the rider that the rest of the candidates’ names will follow. This is obviously meant to cut down the Congress’ vote percentage and possibly project the AAP as a replacement of the Congress. This is in sharp contrast to other parties like Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which has shown keenness for alliance with the Congress in all the three election-bound states.
Hence, the AAP higher ups may well take their bid to emerge as an alternative to the Congress until the next midsummer’s general elections and while doing so wittingly or unwittingly help the BJP in its mission of the Congress Mukta Bharat, or India without the Congress. This is what makes the AAP a virtual frenemy of the BJP. And it is all the more glaring now when most of the non-BJP parties, if not all of them, are trying to come together to challenge the might of the BJP in the next general elections.