The big new player in this election, the AAP, has added rigour to the contests in a few places. Its volunteers, though, are on a perpetual grind as they hurtle across India to make it work. It asks for a lot and is probably not a plan they can sustain.
The AAP first said it exists only to cleanse the system of corruption. The big aim was the Jan Lokpal Bill. Then, it formed a government in Delhi and gave up. Now, it is working to gain the status of a national party.
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It only means that the government provides a little free campaign airtime on Doordarshan. Many parties chased this status, gained it and lapsed into the margins.
The newest to fall out is the RJD. As of March there are six national parties: Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI(M) and CPI. To be a national party, the AAP has to either get six percent of the valid votes polled in four or more states and win four Lok Sabha seats; or get two percent of the total Lok Sabha seats and win seats from three states.
The AAP gained goodwill initially for its movement against corruption, not because it wanted to be a national party.
The Delhi doubt
The arrogant decision to quit the Delhi government without reason has made the AAP vulnerable to dislike. The Delhi assembly has since been kept in suspended animation.
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The next big step will be after 16 May when the national results come. Should the BJP do well, it is expected to either form a government within the current assembly or seek fresh election. A fresh poll could benefit the BJP more with their national government in place.
The AAP is not likely to win in this situation. Not everybody in the party likes this because Delhi gave AAP unexpected and valuable electoral dignity. Kejriwal quit apparently after three colleagues said he should: Yogendra Yadav, Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh. He now downplays this Himalayan act of contempt as a mere mistake.
It could hurt the AAP in the long term as well.
Punjab and Haryana the fresh hope
The AAP has shifted hope to Punjab and Haryana after its Delhi disaster. Punjab, surprisingly, is reporting a boost for the party. This is coming mostly from Kejriwal’s decision to play on the wounds still alive from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indira Gandhi.
Kejriwal said he would set up fresh investigation into the cases. This, the party hopes, might mitigate its problems in Punjab where at least two Lok Sabha candidates dropped out swiftly and were replaced.
The other new area of work is Haryana where Yogendra Yadav is hoping to do what Kejriwal did in Delhi. Yadav contested the Lok Sabha election from Gurgaon and is considered the AAP nominee for chief minister in the Haryana assembly election later this year.
The AAP is seeking to rope in IAS officer Ashok Khemka who took on Robert Vadra.
Lessons from the interior
AAP volunteers and workers find interior India tougher to crack than urban Delhi. The party has negligible impact in vast areas of the country although it fielded the maximum number of candidates.
Things work differently in rustic India where personal contacts matter more than lofty concepts of corruption. The AAP has put in its best effort in Amethi and barely made headway.
This is primarily because no one knows the AAP cadre that has trooped in from Delhi and a few other cities. Locals are therefore indifferent to AAP workers. This upsets the AAP which is fed on instant approval from Delhi.
Also, the social media skills of AAP youngsters are of no use in the hinterland. Thus frustrated, AAP supporters tend to provoke opponents. It works at times, which is then pitched as an assault on ordinary Indians.
As bad as the Congress
In one area, the AAP has slipped to Congress standards and is virtually a match to its far older counterpart. The party appointed the smooth-talking Yogendra Yadav as its chief spokesperson after which its communication skills have dived.
There is no articulation of the AAP view with Yadav fighting his own battles in Haryana. Yadav is through with his election in Gurgaon and has moved to Amethi. But he no longer commands the same attention and hunger for bytes that he did in 2013. This can only improve if the party does well in the General Election.
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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.
Vijay blogs here and may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.