By Ashima Makhija
On August 3, 2017, the Goa unit of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced its decision to pull out of the by-polls to the Goan State Assembly. By-elections are being held for the crucial constituency of Panaji as well as Valpoi on August 23. Calling it a “politically prudent” move, AAP said that it had taken the decision to avoid confusing the electorate. A statement released by the party said that its alternative brand of politics was not endorsed by the Goan electorate in the February 2017 polls and that it is preparing at the grassroots level for the next general elections.
This move is expected to further isolate AAP from the political landscape of Goa, where the image of the party is already marred by humiliating electoral defeats.
The constituency of Panaji has emerged as the focal point of conflict and competition. The Panaji seat is the throne of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. He will be contesting the by-polls against All India Congress Committee Secretary, Girish Chodankar. On Wednesday, Goa Pradesh Congress President Shantaram Naik announced that Chodankar will file his nomination on Friday.
AAP was initially planning to field a candidate in this constituency. Valmiki Naik was the front runner for the ticket. He had contested the last Assembly election in February this year, polling nearly 2,000 votes. The others shortlisted were Oscar Rebello and State Party Chief Elvis Gomes. A section of AAP was initially in favour of having a joint candidate against Parrikar.
Why did AAP duck out?
The party declared that the primary cause of this pragmatic withdrawal was to avert division in the secular votes and to present clear choices to the electorate. The Arvind Kejriwal-led party had contested for 39 seats during 2017 Assembly elections but had failed to open the account despite an impressive election campaign.
“The sole aim [of the AAP’s electoral campaign and its brand of politics] was to free the political environment of Goa from the clutches of communal, corrupt, criminal and characterless politicians, who over the years have sold the interest of our state and its citizens to the highest bidders,” the press statement adds. The statement said that the AAP is convinced, however, that the people of Panaji and Valpoi will firmly reject the politics of opportunism, deceit, and treachery by the current dispensation, which is foisting an unnecessary election at great expense to the public exchequer.
Who turned down Kejriwal’s volume?
AAP’s brand politics has largely been guided by the motor mouth of party supremo, Arvind Kejriwal. But now, the Delhi CM has virtually retreated into a shell. Gone are the days of fiery proclamations accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of destabilizing the Delhi government through the Lieutenant Governor, of labelling the high and mighty as corrupt, and issuing vituperative statements at the drop of a hat.
The visible change has come about because of the electoral drubbings the party received in Goa and Punjab Assembly elections. It lost badly to Congress in Punjab and to BJP in Goa. If some form of enthusiasm was evident among the top echelons, it was drained out completely in the municipal elections in AAP’s own ‘fiefdom’—Delhi.
AAP’s former plans of nationwide expansion, which included contesting and winning the upcoming elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, have been abandoned.
Straddling the verge of obscurity
The Aam Aadmi Party’s withdrawal from the Goa by-polls is representative of the overall recession of its support, credibility and outreach. The party’s electoral mechanism, whose primary fuel was the blame-game and whose instrumental vehicle was Kejriwal, has collapsed in its entirety. The so-called ‘AAP brand of politics’ has neither identity nor ideology.
The challenge for Kejriwal is to reconstruct the image of his party and focus on key issues of education, infrastructure and healthcare. There is a need to open direct channels of communication with its legislators, instead of the current indirect routes. The AAP has had to learn several lessons the hard way; the question is whether the Delhi CM can rise again from the embers of his political career or whether the “revolutionary” AAP will wane into obscurity.
Featured Image Source: VisualHunt
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