The AAP’s mandate in Gujarat is similar to the one in Delhi -- address issues related to corruption and other grievances of the common man, says Vinay Umarji and Premal Balan
From grievances among a group of sanitation workers to families of farmers who committed suicide, the Aam Aadmi Party has started raking up local issues in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat, as it did in Delhi.
Recently, the party, also on a membership drive in Gujarat, supported protests of contractual sanitation workers of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation for better wages and other benefits. According to senior party officials, AAP’s mandate in Gujarat is similar to the one in Delhi -- address issues related to corruption and other grievances of the common man.
To achieve this, party members are planning to reach out to other activist groups and affected groups such as minority communities, de-notified tribal groups, differently-abled persons and HIV-positive people groups.
“The AAP is all about serving the common man. And this is what we will do even in Gujarat. We will continue to take up issues affecting the common man across different strata of the society. They may be farmers as well as middle class families. We will be supporting and taking up issues on behalf of these groups,” said Sukhdev Patel, convenor, Gujarat.
What has also worked in its favour is the recent entry of former Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Legislative Assembly and social activist Kanu Kalsariya in to the party.
Kalsariya has already been leading agitations in favour of farmers and against the Mandal special investment region, Nirma’s cement plant in Mahuva, Dholera SIR and the Mithivirdi nuclear power plant, among others.
But the BJP says it is confident that AAP will not be able to make any dent in the state’s politics.
“The AAP is not going to make any difference to the BJP here as we have a very wide base and people of the state have faith in us as the Narendra Modi-led government has delivered over the past decade,” said a BJP leader.
The emergence of the AAP will hardly make any difference to the BJP, he added.
It may be mentioned here that Gujarat Revenue Minister Anandi Patel's husband Mafatbhai Patel, who was expected to join the Aam Aadmi Party’s state unit on Monday, changed his mind "after consulting family".
The Gujarat Congress, too, seemed unaffected by the emergence of the AAP in the state and was confident of a better performance during the fothcoming Lok Sabha elections.
"We believe that everybody has a right to contest elections. There have been parties in Gujarat like the Gujarat Parivartan Party and others, but records show that our vote share has been on the rise since 2001," said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.
But political analyst Hemant Shah believes that the AAP could alter the political scene of Gujarat.
"The Aam Admi Party in Gujarat comprises people who have strong grassroot presence. They have been involved in developmental activities since years. It has good prospects in the state as people are tired of the BJP and do not want to vote for Congress. So, these people are bound to move towards the AAP in the forthcoming elections," Shah said.
On its part, apart from Kalsariya, AAP has seen senior academicians, former bureaucrats and administrators, among others joining the party in recent times.
For instance, AAP saw JD Vyas, who has worked as secretary in the Chief Minister’s Office of Gujarat government under three chief ministers Chhabildas Mehta, Shankersinh Vaghela and Dilip Parikh, joining the party.
Moreover, Amrapali Merchant, the former vice chancellor of Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University in Gujarat, is also among some of the senior academicians joining AAP.
On the other hand, in order to help and assist the common man in urban and rural areas in joining the party, AAP has also waived off the Rs 10 cost of its membership form.
"Rural people are not able to come all the way to our offices to fill up the forms. Hence, we have not only waived off the Rs 10 cost of the form but also sent our members to villages to pick up the forms in bulk so that the villagers don't have to travel all the way," said Patel.
Such has been the success for the AAP in Gujarat post the Delhi state assembly elections that the party has already seen its membership in the state shoot up to around 70,000 from a mere 6,000 post Delhi results.
According to Shah, so many people voluntarily joining the AAP in Gujarat is a good sign and it shows that the party is gaining popularity here.
"Now the politics of caste and religion is thing of the past. Elections have not moved beyond these barriers. Urban middle and upper class have moved towards the AAP and this is likely to alter the political scenario in Gujarat," Shah said.
As part of this aggressive membership drive in Gujarat, the AAP aims to add 50,000 members in each of the 26 constituencies.
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