20 May 2022 09:41 AM

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RAJEEV KHANNA | 19 MARCH, 2022

AAP Prepares to Expand, Sets Sights on Himachal, Haryana

In Punjab AAP begins work


The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), after its resounding performance in Punjab, is looking at Himachal Pradesh and Haryana to expand its footprint.

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and his MLAs have been finding resonance with the common people with their promises and pledges. Symbolism has been on display to send across the message that the government actually represents the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man).

Take for example the symbolic gesture of the chief minister taking oath at Khatkar Kalan, the native of iconic revolutionary Bhagat Singh. Mann gave a very humble speech on the occasion saying that he was overwhelmed with the massive mandate given by the people of Punjab but at the same time there was need to be far more responsible now and not to be arrogant. He said his government would not waste even a single day to work towards bringing transformation in Punjab.

“It is really pathetic that the youth from the progressive state like Punjab is migrating to foreign shores in search of green pastures. Our government will strive hard to offer lucrative jobs besides eradicating the menace of corruption and other malpractices in order to provide clean, transparent and good governance,” he said.

Immediately after the election results were announced Mann said that there would be no photographs of the chief minister in government offices and only pictures of Bhagat Singh and Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar will be put up.

Another popular decision taken by the new government has been the withdrawal of security cover to 122 politicians. According to Mann as many as 403 security persons have been redeployed in police stations to perform duties related to law and order only. Along with these cops several police vehicles have also been brought back for police duty.

Mann said, “We have good intentions. Trust me. Change will be visible in a month.”

Although AAP was under criticism in the run up to the polls for fielding candidates that were ‘discards’ of the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), some of its candidates from ordinary backgrounds who have registered important victories continue to make headlines.

At the top is the name of Labh Singh Ugoke who defeated Congress’ sitting Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi from thr Bhadaur seat. He runs a small mobile repair shop and has a motorcycle as his only asset. His father worked as a driver while his mother continues to work as a sanitation worker in a government school.

Then there is Jeevan Jyot Kaur who defeated former Congress state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu as well as SAD strongman Bikram Singh Majithia on the Amritsar (East) seat. She is often referred to as the ‘Padwoman’ of Amritsar because of her work in promoting menstrual hygiene.

The party MLA from Nabha Gurdev Singh Mann has continued to move around his constituency on a bicycle. A singer by profession, he defeated Congress minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot.

Meanwhile, even before Mann had taken oath, his MLAs had started making headlines for their surprise checks and visits to the government facilities and offices creating a stir in the official circles. They have taken to going live on social media while visiting such places.

Punjab is witnessing this type of politics for the first time. The ‘VIP’ culture promoted by the previous regimes was definitely not to the liking of the masses.

It remains to be seen how the government performs in context of the tall promises that its leaders had made ahead of the elections on power, social security, jobs and education among the other issues.

AAP’s victory has generated a ripple effect in the neighboring states of Himachal and Haryana. Himachal Pradesh will go to the polls in November this year.The AAP leadership has reportedly decided to contest the elections. AAP’s leader from Delhi Satyendra Jain carried out a small road show in Shimla and announced that the party will be in the fray for both the Municipal Corporation poll in Shimla and the assembly polls later. Small programs are being organized by the AAP in the Himachal districts.

The news of the party scouting for credible faces is a cause of worry for both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress that have ruled Himachal alternatively. AAP has been trying to create a narrative that only it has the wherewithal to counter the BJP.

Observers say that it will definitely try to build up on the low morale of the Congress after the party’s dismal performance in the recent polls across five states. Both the BJP and the Congress have been dominating the political landscape of the hill state with the CPM having a presence in some pockets. The Left party has one legislator in Rakesh Singha in the present assembly. The BJP is in power.

AAP had tried contesting the four parliamentary seats in the state unsuccessfully in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Following the Punjab formula, political workers are of the view that AAP will have no hesitation fielding those denied tickets by the Congress and the BJP.

The Punjab victory has also bolstered AAP ambitions in Haryana. The party had contested the 2019 assembly poll in the state on 46 of the total 90 seats unsuccessfully. Observers say that the party’s strategy of selling its ‘Delhi model’ of education and health are likely to find instant takers in the constituencies around the national capital.

The political landscape in Haryana is quite similar to what it was in Punjab ahead of the recent elections. The state presents the scenario of a multi cornered fight with the BJP, the Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) well entrenched in the state. How AAP manages to create a space and narrative around itself remains to be seen.

After its decent showing in the recent local body polls in Surat in Gujarat, the party is also expected to contest the assembly polls in the state later this year.

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