Why AAP is better placed in Gujarat than Himachal?

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
24 Jul 2022
Why AAP is better placed in Gujarat than Himachal?

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has so far failed to make any mark in Himachal Pradesh as compared to Gujarat where it is getting a lot of traction.

The two states go to the polls in November-December this year.

In fact, Himachal Pradesh should have been an easy catchment area for the AAP after its landslide victory in neighbouring Punjab.

And it did start on an encouraging note after the Punjab results were out on March 10.

Initially, the response to joint rallies by AAP convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann was overwhelming. A large number of people from other parties also joined the AAP.

But this soon faded.

The teething problems on the governance front resulted in a shocking defeat for the AAP in the Sangrur by-election within 100 days of winning a historic mandate at the hands of pro-Khalistan ideologue Simranjit Singh Mann.

It was a personal setback to Mann in his bastion for he had vacated the seat after his victory from the Dhuri assembly constituency.

The ripple effects of this loss were felt in Himachal Pradesh, where the contest has been bipolar between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress for decades now.

The AAP also lost the plot after the arrest of its Delhi minister Satyendra Jain who was in charge of Himachal Pradesh. Till the time he was there, the AAP appeared to be on track to becoming the third force in the hill state. Both the BJP and the Congress were visibly shaken.

But that was some weeks ago and the fight remains between the two national parties. The politics in the state from 1977 to 2017 has largely been dominated by three leaders - Virbhadra Singh, Shanta Kumar and PK Dhumal.

The party had also failed to gain any foothold in another hill state Uttarakhand where assembly elections were held early this year along with Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa and Manipur.

Like Uttarakhand, the AAP in Himachal Pradesh too lacked a credible face. In fact, its chief ministerial candidate in Uttarakhand, Col Ajay Kothiyal, joined the BJP soon after the elections.

Now take Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, the AAP at least has a structure in place in this state. The party is projecting itself as a credible alternative to the BJP that has been ruling the state for the past 27 consecutive years. The Congress has been unable to oust the BJP and the close it came to regaining power was in the 2017 assembly elections when it won 77 seats and restricted the ruling party to below the 100 mark.

The AAP got a major boost in the February 2021 civic elections in Surat where it won 27 out of the total 120 seats with the Congress drawing a blank.

Unlike Himachal Pradesh, the AAP has some prominent names in its stable. These include Gopal Italia, Kishor Desai, Manoj Sorathiya, Kailash Gadhvi, Isudan Gadhvi and Indranil Rajguru. The party also appointed around 7000 new office-bearers in all the 33 districts of the state.

The AAP is banking on 27 years of the BJP's anti-incumbency and the systematic weakening of Congress to register a good show in Gujarat.

For now, it seems to be a tough ask but much depends on how the AAP's election management, campaign strategy and how it organises itself in the run-up to the assembly elections.

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