AAP Sets Sights on National Stage

On January 30, the Aam Aadmi Party announced it would contest over 350 Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming general elections, making clear its national ambitions. Despite opinion polls indicating that the AAP will have little impact nationally, the party is confident of winning 30-50 seats and points to its impressive debut in the Delhi assembly elections as reason for hope. The party has said it will primarily target sitting members of parliament who have criminal-related and corruption charges registered against them, going so far as to release a list of the country’s “most corrupt” leaders that included several cabinet ministers. 

Jiten Gajaria, writing in DNA, criticized party chief Arvind Kejriwal and the overall approach his party has taken. 

“The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to be totally unaware of our systems, the constitution and democracy. The way they have begun making wild allegations and crazy lists of corrupt leaders, one wonders if they have even heard of basic things like ‘proof’ or ‘courts’… The AAP is in a hurry to brand everyone except themselves corrupt and to hang them without even a counter argument…

In his view, the AAP has spurned consensus-building, which forms an essential part of good and effective governance.  

“This spirit of working together for the nation means leaders don’t make wild baseless allegations against each other. But it also doesn’t mean wrong doings are ignored. Be it CWG, 2G, Adarsh or Bofors scams earlier, the opposition did not resort to mindless charges like the AAP is doing. The opposition acquired the necessary evidence, followed it with due judicial process and at most times, nailed the government and its leaders. The AAP is trying to be judge, jury and executioner…”

A piece in Reuters questions whether the AAP can translate its appeal at the state level into electoral success nationally, but notes that the party has been able to steer the national debate. 

“As India heads to a general election due by May, Kejriwal - now chief minister of the country's capital - is preparing to wrongfoot the mainstream parties on a much larger scale. If he succeeds, the implications could be profound. He could derail the ambition of BJP figurehead Narendra Modi to become prime minister, and possibly even hold the key to power in post-election maneuvering to form a coalition government.”

“The trouble for Kejriwal is that many doubt he can make the leap from populism and street politics to policies that would lift India's economic growth from its slowest clip in a decade.”

An editorial in the Times of India makes a similar point, arguing that the AAP must shift its focus from activism to actual governance if it wants to become a viable national player.

“AAP needs to take care… that it doesn't become a one-trick pony by making corruption its sole agenda. Since it's putting up candidates across the country, it needs to have a national agenda that goes beyond corruption and addresses other critical issues of governance. On this front, it has hardly covered itself with glory after assuming charge in Delhi.”

“People are struggling with inflation, unemployment and slow growth across the country, and AAP needs to stake out a position on these issues. Its overturning of the previous Delhi government's belated decision to permit foreign direct investment in retail doesn't augur well in this regard. AAP's stand goes against employment generation which urban youth desperately seeks, as well as inflation busting which would benefit all of aam admi. If AAP grinds down the economy, no amount of corruption targeting is going to avail it in people's eyes.”

A column appearing on Firstpost takes a different stand and views the growing chorus of criticism against recent AAP tactics as unwarranted.

“Throwing allegations to catch public attention has been perfected almost to an art form in the country. Established parties have been doing it for decades. The AAP is only doing it with higher frequency...”

“Should anyone really be blaming the AAP for what it is doing? Everyone was applauding its leaders for hurling allegations at everyone in their anti-corruption movement days. All of them were happy to dance to their tune, adding some music of their own to make the revelry last longer. Nobody asked for evidence then; there’s no reason why they should be asked to do so now.”