AAP takes on Congress and BJP

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Arvind Kejriwal’s party has its eyes on next Delhi elections
Even as the capital continues to rage over the recent rape incident, a new political force is also emerging. Arvind Kejriwal, who spearheads the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) party, has become a well-known politician. Recently, as he did a fast against inflated power bills in Delhi, some questions raised were questions about the motives. One of them was that whether the Gandhian protest by Kejriwal was justified or whether it was a mere gimmick before the upcoming Parliamentary elections as it is electricity is one of the most volatile issues in the country and majority of the states lack adequate supply.

As he blames the Delhi government for the problem, it’s clear that his real target is Sheila Dikshit, the chief minister. In the rape case also, Kejriwal’s party has taken the lead in protesting against the incident and the police. In a sign of his rising profile, the victim’s uncle said in a statement to some news channels that the girl’s shifting to AIIMS would not have been possible without AAP’s public pressure.

There is no denying that it was AAP workers who went to the state-run Swami Dayanand hospital and the Gandhinagar police station to give the much needed moral and social support to the victims family, as well as help build up the incident that once again shook the conscience of the nation. In the 16 December gangrape last year, AAP like all other political parties had failed to read popular pulse and faced the rebuff. The streets of Delhi have this time witnessed political conflict of a different kind. Alarmed by the initial success of AAP in highlighting the issue, the principal political rival of the Congress, the BJP, could take it lying down. After all it is election year in Delhi with assembly polls likely to be held in six months, where AAP will fight to open its political account and make its nascent bid for power.

The BJP, on the other hand, feels that it has a natural claim to office if people are losing faith in the ruling Congress. The electoral battle in the national capital territory of Delhi has always been a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress. Within hours of the rape being reported, Delhi BJP President Vijay Goel was on the streets. He moved fast to compensate the initial loss – holding rallies and planning a sustained campaign on the issue. His party’s PR machinery doing the needful.

The Congress too did not lag behind. Party Chief Sonia Gandhi visited AIIMS and the Prime Minister’s Office sent out a message saying he was deeply disturbed and found police action against protestors unacceptable. The party seemed to be conscious of the fact that the continued loss in public perception would only harm them, particularly when elections are round the corner.

The AAP is fighting hard to claim opposition space in Delhi while the BJP does not want any third party, least of all a nascent AAP, to share that space with it or claim that space from it. AAP is trying to make-up or more than compensate its lack of organisational structure in terms of manpower by setting up helpline numbers and trying to address or respond to grievances through which it believes it could make a popular appeal and hit the right cord of pent up anger against the existing political and administrative set up. The battle is going to intensify, perhaps for the good, as it draws closer to the elections.

Does AAP have the capacity and strength to grab opposition space and be a real challenge to the Congress’s Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi? That’s a fiercely speculative issue for now. One thing is sure that this time around AAP picked up an issue that stirred wider social conscious. Competitive politics on the issue was an unavoidable by-product. Political parties are, after all, expected to fight for issues concerning day to day life of the people. The initiative by AAP has brought that to the fore.