Political observers believe that in the caste and religious dynamics of Uttar Pradesh, fighting an election only based on a governance model could be a tough call
A year ago, Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal announced that his party would fight the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. After defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2020 Delhi Assembly election, Kejriwal launched the party’s expansion plan. The AAP fought the Delhi election based on its governance plank. Political observers, however, believe that in the vast caste and religious dynamics of Uttar Pradesh, fighting an election only based on a governance model could be a tough call.
The Uttar Pradesh election has always been the hotspot of political developments. Recently the AAP’s UP in-charge and Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Singh, met Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav. In the meeting, it was decided that both parties would join hands to fight the upcoming election. While the AAP has been focusing on nationalism, implementation of the Delhi model of governance, free electricity and employment, it has become crucial to explore how the party will fight the UP poll under the leadership of the Akhilesh Yadav-led alliance.
Key issues for AAP
The AAP has realised that fighting Uttar Pradesh on the governance plank alone would not be possible. However, the party will be focusing on some of the key issues related to development. The AAP will also be focusing on the issues like deteriorating law and order situation of the state, massive misgovernance by the Yogi Adityanath government, poor condition of education and healthcare, among others. Kejriwal will launch Rozgar Bazar soon. The AAP has also promised 300 units of free electricity to everyone.
Sanjay Singh said, “Under Yogi Adityanath, corruption has increased massively and in every sector there is corruption. The Aam Aadmi Party believes that the only way of development of Uttar Pradesh is working on employment generation by strengthening the education and the health sector.”
However, it is not yet clear whether the SP-led alliance will approve these promises or not.
Politics is an art of possibilities. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Kejriwal published a list of India’s “most corrupt politicians” which included the name of SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav. But in the upcoming election AAP is all set to ally with the SP.
“The Aam Aadmi Party was formed to fight against corruption and this fight will continue. But right now in this country and in Uttar Pradesh our priority should be to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Aam Aadmi Party believes that every Opposition party should come together in this fight against this fascist regime,” said AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh.
Last week Singh met Akhilesh Yadav and in the meeting, it was decided that a common minimum programme would be decided to fight this election. The SP has decided to tie up with smaller parties like AAP, Rashtriya Lok Dal and other regional parties. Singh said that in the meeting no talks of seat-sharing took place and right now the party is working on booth level organisation building.
“We are not denying the history. But the new leadership of the Samajwadi Party is not talking about caste but talking about the development of the state. We have come together on that particular issue and not on other issues,” Singh said. He also pointed out the development works done by the SP government. “The SP government worked hard to improve the road infrastructure of the state and also did significant development work. This time people of Uttar Pradesh are looking for an alternative and the SP led alliance is the only credible alternative to the BJP,” he said.
SP leaders have also opined that though there are differences in the two parties for the betterment of the state, the alliance is the need of the hour. “The Samajwadi Party is in talks with all the possible allies and the decision on the seat-sharing will be announced soon. Every political party has their own prerogatives. But the citizens of UP have clearly shown their faith in the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav. This is why we all want to come together to defeat the BJP.” said SP spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari.
AAP and western UP
Meanwhile, sources in the party said that the AAP is likely to pitch for 60 seats in the UP election. However, the SP is not ready to offer more than 10 seats to the AAP. Sources also said that the AAP had submitted a list of 25 seats, which was not yet approved by the SP. The SP is reportedly of the view that the AAP and RLD should mostly fight in western UP because they have a better hold in that area.
However, the AAP leaders said that the party is strong across the state which can be seen from the results of the local body polls. “From the very first day the Aam Aadmi Party has stood beside the farmers and the impact of the Delhi model is more in the western Uttar Pradesh. This is why there is a general belief that our party is only strong in western UP. We have not decided any seat-sharing equation with the Samajwadi Party yet,” said Singh.
The possible roadblocks
The AAP has the general idea of fighting this election by projecting Kejriwal’s governance model. However, political observers believe that on the ground, the SP workers will not be quite comfortable with this.
A senior journalist from UP with the condition of anonymity said, “The agenda of the Samajwadi Party and the Aam Aadmi Party is very different. Arvind Kejriwal is no one in the context of Uttar Pradesh politics yet. This is why projecting his model of governance as the model would be a difficult task for the AAP when they are in alliance with the Samajwadi Party.”
The SP clarified that while there will be a common minimum agenda for the alliance, individual political parties will also publish their own manifestoes. “In a healthy democracy, it is always important to put forward the ideas and ideologies of the party through their manifesto. We believe that every political party in the Samajwadi Party-led alliance should come up with their own manifesto. In this case, we will be able to get an idea of the promises and finally take a call on a common minimum programme,” said Ghanshyam Tiwari.
Similarly, the AAP leaders have said that the party will try its best to convince the alliance of these promises. However, in this given condition there could be a high chance that the AAP will not be able to push its own agenda and instead follow the agenda of the SP.
AAP’s nationalism and cultural Hindutva
In the UP election, the AAP has been pushing its own “real nationalism” agenda. In the last two months, the party has taken out a series of Tiranga Yatras across the state. The party has taken out the yatra in Noida, Agra, Ayodhya and Lucknow. AAP leaders, including Delhi CM Kejriwal, visited Ayodhya and also pitched for Ram Rajya.
Sanjay Singh said, “The Bharatiya Janata Party is not the only party which is nationalist in this country. Their nationalism and Hindutva are both fake. The Aam Aadmi Party believes in the politics of inclusion and diversity.”
Whatever be the stand of the AAP vis-à-vis nationalism, political observers believe that this could be a conflicting issue for the alliance. A senior SP leader said on the condition of anonymity, “The Samajwadi Party will not like to play in the hands of the RSS agenda.”
The AAP’s expansion plan is indeed ambitious. If the party manages to win seats in the state, it would be a big gain. But if that does not happen, there is a high chance that it will dent its big political expansion plan.
The author is an independent journalist and former policy research fellow with Delhi Assembly Research Centre who writes on policy and politics. The views expressed are personal.
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