Can the Aam Aadmi Party use the work it has done at the local level to wrest some of the seven Lok Sabha seats from the BJP? It is certainly trying
Mukim Ahmed runs a biryani business. He voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and the Congress in the Vidhan Sabha. But now, he says his mind is made up. He will vote for the AAP and also give it funds to be able to fight the Lok Sabha elections 2019.
Living in Tughlakabad, where AAP won its seat in the Assembly elections, he says he has seen changes taking place — from the improvement in government schools, to adequate water supply, to the sewers being covered.
This news of a voter changing sides would be music to AAP’s ears. In their 11-point questionnaire, being given to every resident of Delhi, they ask if they believe the BJP does a better job. When the answer points to a negative, it goes on to ask if the voter agrees that voting for the Congress would only cut AAP’s share and favour a BJP win.
This exercise is part of the door-to-door campaign which was launched on October 21, as one to raise funds, but also significantly, to begin its campaigning for 2019 elections.
The traditional Congress voter AAP would like to win over are persons like Sandhya Dey. She once favoured “the hand” symbol but has switched sides and decided to put Rs 1,500 in AAP’s coffers. The single mother living in Lal Kuan says this is because the AAP are a “better government than the Congress”.
One factor that stood out for her was the way policy implementation was being carried out directly by the Chief Minister’s office. Every complaint, even when she approached his residence, would get “automatically registered, and the feedback sought over a call”, Dey says.
She does have one grievance, though. For years, she has been requesting that the damaged roads near her home be repaired, but to no avail. Despite having filed several complaints at Cabinet Minister Satyendra Jain’s residence and the PGMS website, she says nothing has happened. But such is the despondency with political parties, she doesn’t believe there is a better alternative.
What also perhaps touched Dey’s heart was her younger daughter’s free medical treatment for Rs 18 lakh under the EWS category at private hospitals.
These are a couple of stories of those who weren’t part of the AAP voter base but now are. The majority of voters perhaps would be more inclined to fund the party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, and these are their loyal supporters.
Like Priyanshu Gupta, an HR manager who has decided to give Rs 1,000 to AAP. Unlike Ahmed or Dey he has been a supporter of the AAP since its inception, and has contributed to the party funds once before. He believes this party works “tirelessly in all the sectors and most importantly they are working for middle class people who are the backbone of Delhi.” Even their choice of the Delhi Commission for Women Chief, Swati Maliwal, he says, is the right one.
The door-to-door campaign will see 3,000 teams of AAP volunteers visit every house in the national capital. It will point out its successes and the failures of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government and the previous Congress regimes in the state.
It will ask questions like “Do you think giving BJP your vote in the previous Lok Sabha elections helped you gain anything”? Then others like: In Delhi, did the Kejriwal government do more work or the seven Lok Sabha MPs of the BJP?
Then it cites how the central government obstructed the functioning of the Delhi government, affecting the delivery of mohalla clinics, bringing the rate of electricity down, CCTV cameras and doorstep delivery service. It also asks if they knew all these were obtained through protest by the CM.
Kejriwal is pushing the line that for Delhi to develop, voters need to ensure that the party wins all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. “We are trying to make the people understand that in the Lok Sabha elections, they should not think about who is becoming the prime minister. Last election, all seven seats were won by the BJP, but what have the people got? These members have not done one thing for the people of Delhi. The only thing they have done is stall the work being done by AAP. If all the seven MPs are from AAP, they will be able to work together with the Delhi government. It does not matter who becomes the PM,” Kejriwal says. He also announced his own contribution of Rs 10,000 a month and urged volunteers to donate what they can.
What is AAP fighting with? It has appointed six prabharis, who are Atishi (East), Dilip Pandey (Northeast), Raghav Chadha (South), Pankaj Gupta (Chandni Chowk), Ghuggan Singh (Northwest) and Brijesh Goyal (New Delhi). It appointed businessman Rajpal Solanki as the west Delhi seat in-charge, but he backed out citing ill-health, according to reports.
For now, not just their door-to-door campaigning but the party’s social media campaigning has been extensive, with Twitter having multiple posts since the campaign launch for the funds from people for a clean government.
Even on the radio the CM asks for the people to donate Rs 100, 1000 or 10,000.
The AAP counsellor tasked with looking after the Kalkaji Vidhan Sabha in the South Delhi seat is Devender Tanwar, and he is getting a positive response, despite having lost earlier to the BJP counsellor. He also emphasises that volunteers have been asked to focus on letting the people know about the doorstep delivery of 40 services.
The approach to every household is executed in a standardised fashion. A few, three to four, land up at a house, telling the residents about the positive work of the government and how a service like doorstep delivery has countered the “the corruption in District Collector’s office”. “We tell them, now no more doing the rounds of offices or paying dalals, everything is done in a transparent, clean way”.
At least 200 missed calls have been made from Kalkaji Vidhan Sabha constituency, Tanwar says proudly. According to him, two things that have irked the voters in his area, and worked in AAP’s favour: demonetisation and the sealing drive. “Delhi is a business city and many people were affected by this.” Even some RSS members, he says, would rather not vote at all, so averse are they to endorsing the BJP.
In South Delhi there’s Ramesh Bhiduri of BJP who is the current MP. In the East, according to Tanwar, talks are on to rope in cricketer Gautam Gambhir for the BJP to fight against AAP’s Atishi. Manoj Tiwari, the BJPs Delhi chief, he says, is not a threat: “People only ask him to sing a Bhojpuri song.”
Interestingly, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has now tweeted asking for contributions of any amount “Rs 5 to Rs 1,000 via the ‘Narendra Modi Mobile App”, which will, he says “strengthen the resolve of our Karyakartas to serve the nation”. He has himself donated Rs 1,000.