Led by 'local lad' Arvind Kejriwal, AAP seeks to expand its base in Haryana
Having dithered from contesting the Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections last year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is moving towards contesting the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Haryana as a serious contender. The Lok Sabha polls are scheduled one year down the line and the Haryana assembly polls would follow in a few months after that.
The party is putting its organisational structure in place besides chalking out a series of programmes that are to be undertaken in the months to come. Its national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had addressed a well-attended rally in Hisar last month that was followed by a successful roadshow in Rohtak-Bhiwani areas of the state.
Taking the momentum forward, the emphasis is now being put on strengthening the organisation at the booth level. It has been decided that Kejriwal himself would hold meetings after April 15 with booth level workers in different constituencies of the state. The decision was taken at a meeting held in Delhi some days back at Kejriwal's residence in the presence of party's Haryana in-charge Gopal Rai and state unit chief Naveen Jaihind.
AAP has already announced that it will be contesting both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state. According to Jaihind, teams have been constituted by the party to zero in on the potential candidates for the elections.
AAP has made the right move by taking the decision to contest the polls as Haryana provides a fertile ground for the party to expand its base outside Delhi and Punjab. To begin with the party can exploit the spill over effect of its governance in Delhi in areas that fall in the national capital region (NCR). It can play up what it has delivered in Delhi to the people in these areas. With a large number of its leaders in Delhi, including Kejriwal, having ancestral connect with Haryana, they can easily reach out to the people with emotive appeals.
But the most important is the opportunity that is available in the Jat heartland. AAP's leadership appears to understand this very well and this is why Kejriwal's rally and the subsequent road show were held in the Jat heartland. Observers say that after the Jat reservation agitation of 2016 and the subsequent developments, particularly the isolation of Jat community, the Jats are expected to vote one-sided this time.
With almost one fourth of the vote share the community is just sitting on the fence observing the developments in the different parties. With the Congress dilly-dallying on handing over the reins of the party to its most powerful Jat leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda with a pan Haryana presence, the situation remains fertile. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the other party having Jat support has also been out of power for more than a decade. With the Jats unlikely to go with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there is a window of opportunity available for AAP to make its presence in the Jat community.
However, AAP isn't just targetting the Jat vote. It is also looking at wooing Bania voters who have tradionally been supporters of the BJP. Both Kejriwal and Jaihind happen to be Banias. Even in Delhi, the party has tried hard to woo BJP's trader vote bank, by raising issues like sealing by MCD and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax
Leaving asides the politics of wooing various communities, Haryana today is offering a number of issues to the political parties to lap up. These issues include farm distress, unemployment and employment scams coming to light, women safety and security, the skewed sex ratio, the menace of cow vigilantes, targeting of minorities, atrocities on Dalits, the high number of rapes etc. These are issues that will form the narrative of both the forthcoming Lok Sabha and assembly polls in the state. There is a strong view that under the BJP regime led by Manohar Lal Khattar, the state is fast turning into another laboratory of Hindutva after Gujarat.
While Khattar and his party will try to hard sell their achievements on the 'development' plank, the fact remains that the government has unraveled whenever there has been trouble at hand, be it the violence at the Dera of godman Ram Pal, the violence during the Jat agitation or the mayhem by followers of Baba Ram Rahim in Panchkula.
AAP has started attacking the state government with Jaihind issuing a statement recently saying that Khattar regime is behaving like a big trader in the job market. He said that AAP had flagged the recent job scam that has been making headlines in the state two years ago.
It was on April 5 that Khattar's Flying Squad had busted a gang of employees of Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC) and other departments along with their brokers running a job-for-cash racket. They would take money from aspirants for getting them selected for government jobs. Jaihind has accused the government of doing nothing over the last two years and now taking credit by making a few clerks as scape goats.
Jaihind has leveled a series of allegations against the BJP regime saying that those people have been made members of HSSC to recruit school lecturers and taxation inspectors who are themselves incapable of becoming clerks. He has said that people have been misled about the selection criteria in context of evaluation of interviews and written exams.
He has also raised the demand that is being aired by other Opposition parties with regards to the action against HSSC chairman. The Opposition has been accusing the government of shielding the chairman by promising a probe in the Assembly. It has been demanding his dismissal and a probe by the CBI or other competent agency while pointing that an audio recording of his allegedly discussing graft payment is doing rounds in the social media.
AAP has also accused the government of doing nothing to check the leakage of question papers in a series of exams in the state and also of delaying the recruitment against various posts. He claims that question papers have been leaked on no less that 19 occasions during the Khattar regime.