Gujarati poet and filmmaker

AAP is Trying to Beat BJP at Their Own Game in Gujarat

Gujarati poet and filmmaker

Mehul Devkala, a Gujarati poet andaward-winning filmmaker, says Aam Aadmi Party is following a strategy which is very similar to one of BJP

Electoral politics in Gujarat has traditionally been a two-party affair. This is the first time that three political parties are in the contest. One cannot deny a strong anti-incumbency factor because the state has been a BJP laboratory for 27 years.

If you look at AAP’s campaign strategy, they are working professionally. Their agenda is consistently changing according to the region; ideology does not matter to them. For example, in the Bilkis Bano case, the AAP kept silent for the fear of hurting a section of voters. They have followed a strategy which is on the same lines as the BJP.

Last year, winning 27 seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation helped in creating a positive perception of AAP, whereas Congress did not fare well. If you visit Gandhinagar now, you will see all sorts of government employees protesting against the state government on various issues for the last one month or more. The old pension scheme is one of those issues that they are demanding. When people asked AAP’s stand on this, they first said they will think over it.  But when the Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh governments implemented it, AAP announced the same in Punjab.

ALSO READ: ‘If AAP Fails To Deliver, Punjab Will Never Forgive It’

So, I see this election as a contest between three models: the Gujarat model of BJP, the Delhi model of AAP, and the Rajasthan model of Congress. Rajasthan is a border state and its CM Ashok Gehlot is the Congress observer for assembly polls. Newspapers here are printing full-page advertisements of Rajasthan Government schemes almost daily.

AAP is shaping its strategy in response to these two models. For example, AAP is distributing employment guarantee cards to people – a token against their pre-poll promise on the question of unemployment – if they come to power. Arvind Kejriwal is visiting the homes of Dalits and rickshaw-pullers on the same lines as Modi-Shah duo has done routinely. This is essentially a marketing gimmick, but it is hurting Congress’s fortunes.

Right now, AAP is a regional party. But if it wins in Gujarat it will become a national party. There is a tendency among voters to give a new party a chance and Kejriwal’s poll slogan serves that appeal. That is why the clarion call: Ek mauko Kejriwal ne. There are two local faces representing Kejriwal – Gopal Italia and Isudan Gadhvi. Gadhvi has been a journalist who has consistently raised people’s issues, so people have faith in his words. Gopal has been a leader of the Patidar reservation agitation and is now the Convener of Gujarat AAP.

AAP is building a narrative that the last 27 years in the state have seen a friendly fight between Congress and BJP. It is making forays in rural areas too. So its effect is not just limited to urban constituencies. Then there is also Owaisi’s AIMIM contesting in cities.

Those seats where the winning margin of BJP in the last assembly election was less than five thousand, if Muslim and anti-incumbency votes get divided into AIMIM and AAP, then it will harm Congress. BJP may lose some seats too.

Congress has some hopes in the Rajasthan-bordering tribal areas with a strong BTP presence, the tribal party run by popular leader Chhotubhai Vasava. AAP had organised a joint rally with Vasava back in April and was trying to build its base there. Recently that relationship became sour. Vasava alleged that AAP was trying to break his party. After that Congress leader Pawan Khera went there and met Vasava. Now it seems BTP has returned to the Congress fold.

People in Gujarat are not as politically aware as in UP or Bihar. They are largely a business community which have little interest in political analysis. People like us may delve into ideological narratives but this neither matters to AAP nor Gujarati voters. These factors would ensure that anti-incumbency votes will get divided. If AAP had not been there, this election may have been a sure-shot win for the Congress.

As told to Abhishek Srivastava

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