Election 2022: Why the AAP’s long game has a positive side for the BJP

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After marking its arrival on the national scene with an impressive victory in the Punjab elections, the Aam Aadmi party will be tested when it enters the electoral blitzkrieg in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year. Having decided to turn every election where there is a direct fight between Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party into a triangular competition, the AAP’s long game is likely to harm a crumbling Congress more than it would harm the Short-term BJP.

There seems to be a general consensus that the AAP’s foray into uncharted territory may be a long-term risk, as well as a natural progression route for a party that has made its mark as the only opposition group that is in power in two states on its own. The short-term implications, however, are likely to be far greater for a Congress in disarray than for the BJP. While experts view the AAP’s chances of turning the tide in Himachal and Gujarat – both currently ruled by the BJP – this year as bleak, its entry is likely to come with a silver lining for the BJP which otherwise faces the twin challenges of high anti-incumbency and alleged discontent within its ranks.

Because, the party led by Arvind Kejriwal is an even greater threat to Congress, which is in disarray in the two states linked to the ballot. If not enough to defeat the BJP, the AAP will likely end up replacing Congress as the main opposition party, political commentator Amitabh Tiwari told FinancialExpress.com. “The AAP should be able to eat away at Congress votes – more in Gujarat and less in Himachal Pradesh,” he said, adding that AAP’s politics have become more “left-wing”, thus sharing the same electoral space as the Congress.

“Their ideology is left-wing, so they’ve occupied the same space as Congress and they’ll only get votes from there,” he said.

The BJP, for its part, continues to scorn the Aam Aadmi party, which they say is doomed to the same fate as in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur in recently concluded Assembly polls. “They made a lot of noise in UP, but its candidates lost deposits wherever they appeared. Similarly, they were rejected by the public in Uttarakhand. The same will happen in Himachal and Gujarat – they have no future in either state, they will be rejected by the people,” BJP spokesman Anil Baluni told FinancialExpress.com .

On whether the AAP’s entry will lead to a split in anti-BJP votes, Baluni said his party does not work with such an approach and instead seeks votes based on the development work it has. carried out. “We have given good governance in Himachal and Gujarat so we are confident that the people of both states will trust us and their deposits (AAP) will be confiscated again,” Baluni added.

Gujarat: the “Patidar” factor

The BJP struggled to overcome anti-incumbency in the 2017 Assembly elections but still managed to retain power in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Amit Shah Union. He failed to perform well in the rural farmers belt and tribal communities of Gujarat at the time and faced challenges in the form of Patidar and Una turmoil. The party saw its vote share increase, but suffered a significant loss of seats, falling from 115 in the 2012 Assembly polls to 99 of the 182 Assembly seats.

While the BJP still faces anti-incumbency, there is no such turmoil this time. One factor that could work out well for the BJP this time around is the recent exit of Hardik Patel, who led Congress’s Patidar quota agitation amid growing speculation that he will join the BJP.

Moreover, efforts are underway not only for the BJP, but also for the Congress and the AAP, to woo Naresh Patel – Leuva Patidar’s top leader – and get him involved ahead of the election. The patidars, who make up 19% of the vote in Gujarat, play a key role in determining Assembly polls in 71 of the state’s 182 constituencies. This agrarian community has always been a key support base for the BJP.

On the other hand, AAP’s hope in Gujarat is fueled by its performance in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) polls of February 2021, where it surprised by winning 27 seats as the Congress made a White. The BJP won the SMC, but the AAP got the main opposition space cleared by Congress. Last October, he won a seat in the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation elections and also secured the defeat of Congress in many seats by eating away at his votes.

While the AAP may not be able to secure many seats, “it will definitely play the spoiler role,” Tiwari said. “With the rural draw of freebies, the AAP’s overall electoral appeal has been primarily urban-centric,” he said, adding that the party was desperately trying to woo the tribal community as well.

Himachal Pradesh: a different ball game

While the BJP appears to be on solid ground in Gujarat, the situation is starkly different in the mountainous state of Himachal Pradesh. The BJP here faces a tougher challenge from a strong anti-incumbency wave that has manifested itself in the ruling party’s loss of three Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in partial polls. of October 2021. Moreover, its conventional game-changer – Prem Kumar Dhumal – is virtually in political exile after his defeat in previous Assembly polls.

On the other hand, Congress will battle the polls this year for the first time in three decades without the towering figure of former chief minister and party patriarch Virbhadra Singh, who died last year, leaving the party deprived of an effective second echelon of leadership.

While the playing field appears to be more or less clear for the AAP, Tiwari believes its impact on opposition votes will be minimal, given that the competition in the hill state is still quite bipolar. The BJP has announced that it will participate in the elections under the leadership of Thakur. The Chief Minister is confident to retain power and believes that the AAP is not a threat to the BJP, but the main challenge remains with the Congress.

Ahead of Assembly polls, the AAP announced it would play a “semi-final” to test the waters in its first contest in the BJP-run Shimla Municipal Corporation, scheduled for late May. The results could prove to be an indicator of the votes the AAP manages to gnaw on. As Congress grapples with a leadership crisis and dissent within the state unit, a negative public perception of the Grand Old Party could work in favor of the AAP.

As Congress scored a major upset by winning the three assembly seats of Arki, Jubbal-Kotkhai and Fatehpur in an indirect vote, its faction-riddled unity of state could impact the performance of the left. Earlier this month, more than three dozen people, including Samyukt Kisan Morcha Himachal Pradesh host and Congress leader Aninder Singh Nauty, joined the Aam Aadmi party, which continues to expand its base in the state of Hills.


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