With eyes on UP polls, will AAP be able to replicate its 'Delhi template'?

AAP is looking to enrol 2.5 million members in UP and contest the upcoming panchayat polls. Photo: Twitter
After a near clean sweep in the Delhi elections in February, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is now eyeing Uttar Pradesh (UP), the country’s most populous and electorally most crucial state, ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party, which has so far met with little electoral success in UP, is confident of replicating its “Delhi template” based on development and the basic needs of education, health, power, etc in the state too.

In 2017, in the UP urban local bodies’ polls, AAP won about 44 seats and stood fifth, after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), and Congress.

Sanjay Singh, who is in charge of AAP’s UP affairs, had then termed the results encouraging since “UP politics is dominated by caste and religion” and “the challenge for AAP was to take up issues such as health and education and yet register its presence”.

Although the UP polls are two years away, AAP’s strong pitch has earned some resonance, at least in the Congress, which is sweating blood to emerge out of a “political coma” in the state under the stewardship of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of UP, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Last month, several prominent Congress leaders, including the former UP unit president of its youth wing, Nadeem Ashraf Jaisi, and his supporters joined AAP in the presence Singh, who took out a victory march in Lucknow to celebrate the party’s stellar win in Delhi.

Jaisi, who hails from the Congress’ pocket borough of Rae Bareli, was considered close to the Gandhi family. His desertion disconcerted the grand old party, which tried to square up the sudden setback by inducting a few disgruntled UP AAP leaders into its fold.

UP AAP leader and Spokesperson Vaibhav Maheshwari claimed the party’s template of development and people’s primary needs would appeal to the electorate of the state ahead of 2022, and that it would perform well in the elections. “All other parties have their core agenda based on caste and community considerations. The people of the state have always felt compelled to choose among these outfits, since there was no viable option for them. AAP will provide them the alternative that upholds only the basic needs of the electorate transcending caste and religious lines,” he said.

AAP is looking to enrol 2.5 million members in UP and test the electoral waters by participating in the forthcoming state panchayat polls this year. The party leaders and workers are planning to visit more than 100,000 villages in the state in the next three-four months and take feedback from the people about their main issues. This will be used to prepare the road map for the party to contest the polls.

Besides, the party is counting on the fact that five members from UP have become ministers in the AAP government in Delhi. They can prominently hold the beacon for the party in the state during canvassing.

Social historian and political commentator Badri Narayan says it would be an uphill task for AAP to make any significant impact in UP, given the identity politics in the state and the radical distinction between the electorates of Delhi and UP.

Although it’s early days, AAP is looking to contest all the 403 assembly seats in UP. “If we try to have a pre-poll pact with parties that have failed to deliver, the public will not like it,” Maheshwari said, adding the state’s people were waiting for an alternative.

Meanwhile, UP Congress Committee President Ajay Kumar Lallu refused to comment on the likelihood of AAP hurting the party’s prospects . “The Congress is working dexterously to strengthen itself.” 

UP BJP Spokesperson Chandramohan Singh brushed aside the theory of any challenge to the Yogi Adityanath government in the coming elections. “Our government follows the model of good governance and the safety of the people. There is an unshakable faith among the people in the leadership of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

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