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New Entrant


Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party seem to be grasping at straws in Uttarakhand, but there is – for them – no harm in trying. It is for the people of the state to consider what he offers and represents. He has declared the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate, even though AAP presently doesn’t have a single seat in the Assembly. It is like someone competing at the district level claiming an Olympic Gold.

So, what is there in it for him? On the face of it, it is an attempt to expand the party’s footprint into new territory. He has seen some success in Punjab’s fragmented politics by providing a platform to disgruntled elements from other parties and the occasional celebrity. The party’s ideology is downright populist, finding common cause with any disruptive movement as long as it is against the government in power. The same can be expected in Uttarakhand. Kejriwal is here looking for votes but, instead, playing the benefactor by promising free electricity from the state’s own power stations by tapping into the public exchequer.

The claim is that AAP will contest every seat in the state. This means, an ‘established’ brand will have on offer seventy tickets for aspiring candidates. They will be required to have the funds needed to contest. Then, of course, ‘some’ contribution will be required for the party kitty. It is worth considering how much that will come to – maybe those with experience of Mayawati’s BSP would manage an estimate. If the gamble pays off in even a couple of seats, the effort will have been worth it. Otherwise, the party budget won’t exactly be in the red. Pretty good returns for showing up a few times.

Kejriwal is still comparatively young. He knows that the Delhi electorate is, sooner or later, bound to become disillusioned with him – there is a limit to how much promises can be stretched. He has to have something of an organisation beyond that state to remain a contender. So, clout has to be acquired elsewhere and the party funds have to be built up for the foreseeable future. He must realise, however, that merely opposing others is not an ideology – he needs to represent certain identifiable values. Merely ‘speaking on behalf of the poor’ can serve for as long as they don’t transform into aspirational citizens. In fact, he may well discover that Uttarakhand’s voters already belong to that category – it will be an important lesson learned.