Jaipur: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has been ruling Delhi since 2015 with an overwhelming majority, has set its eyes on Rajasthan after its crushing defeats in the Punjab and Goa Assembly elections last year. In a state which had traditionally witnessed two-sided contests between BJP and Congress, AAP has made an early start by announcing several candidates in August and the party is confident of its chances.
Though AAP had fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan and fielded its candidates from 22 of the 25 constituencies, none of them could win. The candidates included a known social activist, Virendra Vidrohi (Alwar), famous medical activist Narendra Gupta (Chittorgarh) and renowned specialist in asthma and allergy, Virendra Singh (Jaipur).
AAP had gained popularity in Rajasthan after its anti-corruption movement in Delhi. As many as 15,000 members, including leaders from various political parties, doctors, engineers, non-resident Indians, government officials and academicians, had joined the party before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
For the upcoming Assembly election, AAP has so far announced its lists comprising 63 candidates, while inviting suggestions from the public for its draft manifesto, which will also be released shortly. The party intends to contest from all the 200 seats in the state.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal will address a public rally at Ramlila Maidan in Jaipur on October 28 amid indications that several disgruntled leaders of both the BJP and Congress may join AAP during the event. AAP state coordinator Devendra Shastri said here today that the rally would be a perfect occasion for spelling out the party's vision and policies for Rajasthan.
The Jaipur Municipal Corporation came in for sharp criticism by AAP over the issue of allotment of venue for the rally on the pretext of seeking permission from the Election Commission. Shastri said that the municipal officers, under pressure from the BJP government, had harassed the AAP functionaries for more than a week. He said there was no provision for getting the Election Commission's permission for allotment of a place for a public meeting.
Interestingly, AAP had achieved electoral success for the first time in Rajasthan in the shape of rejection of a no-confidence motion moved by the BJP and Congress municipal councillors at the Mangrol Municipal Council in 2012-13 against its Chairman, Ashok Jain. A referendum was conducted in the town to get the public opinion on whether Jain should be allowed to continue in the chair. The result of referendum was in favour of Jain and he continued in the office.
The AAP has gained confidence after the BJP leader and Kisan Mahapanchayat founder Rampal Jat joined the party recently. Jat, a former BJP general secretary, said the ruling party had failed to keep its promises made to the farmers and had completely ignored the rural populace facing difficulties in all spheres of life.
Jat said the development of the country was not possible without focusing on the farmers' issues and alleged that they were being neglected under the BJP rule. He said he had joined the AAP because its ideology had matched with his own pattern of thinking.
The 63 candidates declared by AAP include farmers' ideologue Giriraj Singh Khangarot (Malpura), National Council member Sunil Agiwal (Bhilwara), Chartered Accountant M.P. Choyal (Ladpura), medico Bharat Gupta (Malviya Nagar, Jaipur) and activist Ashok Jain (Anta). Devendra Shastri, a former journalist, will contest the polls from Civil Lines constituency in Jaipur.
The AAP in-charge for Rajasthan, Deepak Bajpai, who was appointed after the removal of Kumar Vishwas in April this year, said his party had the advantage of having a big force of volunteers. The party workers are going door to door in an attempt to make personal contacts. Vishwas was openly critical of AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal after he was denied the Rajya Sabha ticket by the party this year.
AAP will follow the party’s Delhi pattern to decide the issues to be raised in the elections. Through the “Rajasthan Dialogues”, the party workers will speak to the farmers, women, youths, labourers, traders and other sections of the society and finalise the issues based on their feedback. AAP may also arrive at an understanding with the Left parties to fight against the BJP.
Though the BJP and Congress are likely to emerge as the major parties in the election, the hypothesis of Rajasthan being a two-party state will be shattered in this year's Assembly polls, according to the AAP leaders. The issue of maintaining distance from BJP and Congress remains a subject of contention among the smaller political parties, whose leaders are in regular contact with each other.