The AAP chief’s tactical shift could well be a precursor to the realignment of political forces in the 2019 polls.
New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has asked the Gujarat electorate to vote for the strongest anti-BJP candidate in the forthcoming Gujarat polls. “If the Aam Aadmi Party is winning, then vote for the AAP candidate…If somewhere else, another party is winning, vote for them,” Kejriwal said. “Defeating the BJP is our goal…Everyone is looking towards Gujarat and praying that the BJP loses.”
The Delhi chief minister’s appeal at his party’s national convention on the occasion of AAP’s fifth anniversary this Sunday signalled a shift in electoral and political strategy. From an earlier strategy of fighting the twin danger of the BJP and Congress, the AAP chief now seems to have zeroed in on the BJP as the main enemy.
The AAP is contesting in 20 of the 182 assembly seats in the two-phased Gujarat polls, to be held on December 9 and 14. Not holding back any punches, Kejriwal reportedly said, “What the ISI could not do in 70 years, the BJP has done in three years,” adding that the BJP had fulfilled Pakistan’s dream to divide India along Hindu-Muslim lines so it can “capture India”. Significantly, Kejriwal described the ruling BJP as more corrupt than the Congress.
Welcoming Kejriwal’s call to rally all forces against the BJP, Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told The Wire, “Our main task is to defeat this RSS-BJP government. This has to be done in the interest of the people and the country.”
One would recall that the India Against Corruption movement that jolted then United Progressive Alliance government between 2011-2012, had primarily targeted the Congress in its campaign against corruption. Since then the political map of India has drastically altered. The BJP has been on the ascendant and the Congress diminished in state after state.
Against this background, the Gujarat polls have thrown up new political realignments that acquire special significance not just within the parameters of this particular state – but also in the context of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Consider for instance, Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani’s announcement that that he will contest the election from Vadgam as an independent candidate. In north Gujarat, Vadgam, is a seat reserved for Scheduled Castes, now held by the Congress. Mevani has requested the Congress not to field a candidate in the seat.
“We need to expose the 22-year-old misrule of the BJP and hence should be a direct fight between me and the BJP. Request other political parties and independents to withdraw so that it’s a direct contest,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
The Congress has had some success in its outreach campaign. OBC leader Alpesh Thakor has joined the party and Hardik Patel, who spearhead the Patidar quota agitation, has assured the Congress of his support.