The perception battle surrounding the Aam Aadmi Party and its assault on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll prospects in the State, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi cut his teeth in politics, may at the end of the day be nothing more than an expedition to snatch national party recognition from the Election Commission. Six percent vote share each in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will do the trick. AAP’s Punjab showing couldn’t fetch the ‘people’s party’ national party status, but it lent much-needed urgency to the quest in the future. Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh might round off 2022 with a national party reading in the Election Commission records. Most Gujarat-based political analysts believe that despite the hype created by Delhi chief minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi-based ‘regional party’ will not be able to score an upset in Gujarat, or in Himachal Pradesh, where it is an out-and-out Congress versus BJP battle.
The bridge’s fall on the Machchu in Morbi presented yet another chance for AAP to worm its way into the Gujarati heart. But the Gujarati does not believe Modi is to blame for the fall of the bridge. Oreva, the company which operated the bridge, yes, but not the BJP, and definitely not Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AAP perhaps is the last party that got convinced that a frontal attack on Narendra Modi in the Prime Minister’s home State never works. The Congress has been trying to cut Modi to size in Gujarat for 30 years and every time it failed because some or the Congress leader called Modi names and every time the Gujarati took it ‘personally’. The AAP thought that it could do a Congress on Modi and the average Gujarati voter would smile his indulgence and let it go, forgiving Kejriwal and AAP. Kejriwal learned late that it doesn’t work like that. The BJP vote share in Gujarat will not be eroded by personal attacks centered on Modi.
Gujarat’s electorate has got wise to Kejriwal’s tricks of the trade. His thick skin notwithstanding, people have seen through him. The bad press that Kejriwal and Mann are getting in Delhi, Punjab and in neighboring States has spoiled AAP’s chances. The Aam Aadmi Party leader talks too much and delivers too little. Kejriwal’s rating has plummeted. Calls for the sacking of the Delhi Government are mounting in gas-chamber Delhi. Kejriwal has made fools of ‘we the people’ one last time is the feeling, and the gist. News trickling from AAP’s Ghaziabad headquarters is that of an AAP in retreat. Kejriwal is no superman. Everybody in Delhi is breathing death and, forget Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Kejriwal has to win the Delhi MCD elections if he wants to remain in the reckoning in the national capital. Under the circumstances, the best strategy is to cut losses and keep ambitions modest. This is why the target is 6 percent of the vote share in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. National party recognition brings with it special privileges. For one, it will be able to use its symbol to fight all elections; it will be able to open its party office in Delhi, it could demand two free sets of electoral rolls, even AAP candidates will be eligible for a free copy of electoral rolls during the Lok Sabha elections.