Simultaneous MCD, Gujarat Polls Force Team Kejriwal to ‘Divide, to Rule’

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The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections will be held on December 4 and the results will be declared on December 7. The Delhi elections come three days after the first phase of polling in Gujarat and one day before the second and last phase of polling in the state. The MCD poll results will be declared a day before the results for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are out on December 8. For the 10-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has crucial stakes in both the Gujarat and MCD polls, and is up against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress, it is now a question of juggling and using resources wisely.

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has raised the party’s stakes in Gujarat, the home turf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, by visiting the state frequently starting April 4, after the party’s win in Punjab. Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also accompanied Kejriwal and the duo has addressed public meetings together, splitting up later for road shows.

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Kejriwal has galvanised maximum resources for Gujarat, including manpower. AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sandeep Pathak, widely perceived as the ‘organisation man’ who played a key role in the party’s Punjab win; MP Raghav Chadha, who the party believes has an appeal among the youth and effectively conveys the party’s point of view; and MP Sanjay Singh, known for his sharp political attacks as well as getting influential people to the party, are all sweating it out in Gujarat.

Apart from these, AAP Delhi MLA Gulab Singh Yadav, the party’s Gujarat in-charge has been in the state practically since the results of the Delhi elections were declared in 2020. The party has also tried to use the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raids and questioning of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia as its calling cards in Gujarat. In fact, Sisodia has campaigned in the state for nearly one week, apart from his trips with Kejriwal or the ones in which he tried to “expose” the education model of Gujarat.

FAST AND FURIOUS

On November 4, when dates for MCD elections were to be declared, Kejriwal and Mann held a joint press conference in the national capital before flying to Ahmedabad to declare the party’s chief ministerial face for Gujarat the same day and was campaigning for the next three days.
AAP minister Gopal Rai, the convener for Delhi, and MLA Durgesh Pathak, co-in-charge of Delhi are focusing on the MCD polls, where a win is must for the AAP to claim success for its “Delhi model” as well as its national ambitions.

Additionally, another core team, comprising MLAs Saurabh Bhardwaj, Atishi and APMC Chairman Adil Ahmad Khan, has been formed. They would be working directly with Sisodia. After the chief minister’s return to Delhi on November 8, the party has moved fast.

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On November 11, Kejriwal presented the party’s manifesto in AAP’s signature style of ‘10 Kejriwal Guarantees’, the PAC met the same day, the party’s start campaigner list and the first list of 134 candidates was out the same night. The second list, expected to be the final one, was out on November 12. The AAP chief will again be off to boost the party’s prospects in Gujarat and will return to Delhi only on the 15th.

THE 15-YEAR STREAK

The party, despite winning 67 of the 70 assembly constituencies in Delhi Assembly in 2015 failed to win the MCD polls in 2017, paving the way for the BJP to score a hat-trick. However, in 2022, the party is very confident of winning the MCD polls, which perhaps explains Kejriwal’s focus on Gujarat.

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Party spokesperson and AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, while welcoming the dates for MCD polls, claimed it was a clear indication of the “BJP’s nervousness”. He claimed the party has been prepared for MCD polls since April and unlike in 2017, the party has a better track record of work to showcase, following the landmark Constitutional Bench on delineation of powers between the Lieutenant Governor and Chief Minister’s office.

“We have 62 MLAs, we have a record of our work, the BJP has nothing to showcase. In fact, our chief minister can focus on Gujarat,” said a confident Bhardwaj, the day the polls were declared.

Veteran BJP leader and former South Delhi mayor Subhash Arya earlier said, “The reduction of wards from 272 to 250 will only benefit the BJP. Our party will win 150-200 seats, and register a comfortable victory in the polls.”

RE-CALIBRATION

However, the AAP has re-calibrated its strategy and got its star campaigners — Bhagwant Mann, Sanjay Singh and Raghav Chadha — who were focusing completely on Gujarat to campaign in Delhi.

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The party has also listed Rajendra Pal Gautam, who had resigned following his presence at a ‘ diksha ceremony’ as a ‘star campaigner’ to woo the sizeable chunk of Dalit voters. The biggest impact of simultaneous elections in Delhi and Gujarat will be on Kejriwal’s schedule, who until now was campaigning only in Gujarat, but will now have to accommodate Delhi as well.

The lean fighting machine of AAP will have to divide itself to do justice to Gujarat and Delhi.

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