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Why Arvind Kejriwal thinks being part of Opposition grand alliance will not help AAP

Arvind Kejriwal understands that forming an alliance with the Opposition will stymie the spread of his governance philosophy

Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister and national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party, recently stated that his party will not be a part of any grand Opposition alliance in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal’s party won a historic victory in Punjab in 2022. This year, the AAP has also opened its account in the Goa Assembly elections by winning two seats. The goal of Kejriwal right now is to expand across the states. The AAP believes that right now if the party suggests that it will be a part of an Opposition alliance in which Congress will play a key role, it will affect the expansion spree.

Delhi chief minister Kejriwal is a sharp politician who has learned that defeating Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot be the sole target of any political party. The goal of the Opposition alliance would be to dethrone Prime Minister Modi. This concept has been tried and failed, so Kejriwal is sending a different message. Significantly, he is not the only one. Recently, Odisha Chief Minister and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik also gave the same message. However, the reasons for Kejriwal and Patnaik are different.

Problems with association with Congress

The formation of the AAP happened because of the Anna Hazare movement. This movement was primarily targeted against the corruption of the then Congress-led UPA government. The AAP won its first electoral battle against the Congress in Delhi. The first government was short-lived because, to stop the BJP, the Congress decided to give external support to the AAP. In this situation, Kejriwal was unable to keep some of his campaign promises, such as the Lokpal Bill, and resigned. Kejriwal has become the chief minister of Delhi in 2020 for the third time, and during these many years, the party has technically finished the Congress in the national capital of India.

The expansion of the AAP in Delhi happened based on the hardcore voters of the Congress. Significantly, the vote share of the Bharatiya Janata Party has remained intact. In Delhi, the voters support Kejriwal in the Assembly elections but when it comes to the Lok Sabha or civic polls they vote for the BJP. But in no case do these people vote for the Congress.

Recently, the AAP formed a government in Punjab. The party has received a historic and magnificent victory in the state. In the backdrop of this humongous victory is the distrust of the people against the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal. According to several analyses, the AAP won this election by completely taking over the voter base of the Congress.

AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai celebrate their party’s performance in Punjab. Image Courtesy: @AAP/Twitter

Kejriwal has now planned to fight elections in several states, including Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka and others. In all these states, the party will try to expand its base depending on the vote share of the Congress. In such a situation any decision of going for an alliance of the Opposition parties which would be led by the Congress will be a suicidal step for Kejriwal and his party.

Ideological disconnect with Opposition parties 

The AAP is technically one of the youngest parties in power across India. The majority of the Opposition parties today are either fragment of the Congress or the Janata Party. Similarly, some parties are majorly formed on the issues of either caste or states and others. In this group of political parties, the AAP has a disconnect in terms of ideologies.

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Apart from the Shiv Sena, historically, these political parties have stayed majorly secular. Political parties like the Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, Samajwadi Party, and Left have either taken stands against the Hindutva of the BJP or distanced themselves. While the Congress keeps attacking the RSS, others try to maintain a balance based on their priorities in the states. In this narrative, the AAP is becoming overly misfit. First, despite being anti-BJP, Kejriwal never takes on the saffron party when it comes to Hindutva. Second, the AAP has never claimed to be a secular party but openly boasts of its idea of Hindutva.

Some people believe that this is soft Hindutva and some people believe that this is cultural Hindutva, but whatever it is, the ideology of the AAP is clearly right of centre. Therefore, going for an alliance with the set of majorly secular Opposition parties could be a problem for the AAP.

Dangers of alliance with regional parties 

Recently, the AAP fought the Goa Assembly elections. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress also fought in the state. The entire anti-BJP vote got distributed, and the Congress, along with the AAP, got affected. This is why Kejriwal believes that taking part in a grand Opposition alliance could mean some understanding with some of the regional parties.

The Goa election has already created a distance between Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee. However, recently they met and tried to sort out things. But in the future, Kejriwal will not want such conflicts. For example, the TMC is eyeing the northeastern states. The AAP, meanwhile, has fought the Guwahati civic poll and secured a seat. So there will be a major conflict between the AAP and TMC in Assam in the upcoming days.

Similarly, the AAP is trying to build a strong base in Uttar Pradesh. This time they tried to ally with the Samajwadi Party, but it failed. Kejriwal, at this point, will not want any alliance with the Samajwadi Party at the national level, which might hamper his expansion ventures in Uttar Pradesh.

What is Kejriwal model of expansion?

Right now, the key goal of the AAP is to focus on the states where the Congress is not in good shape. It has done well in the Gujarat local body poll, the Gauhati local body poll and in other places too. According to the sources in the AAP, Kejriwal does not want to focus on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections but on the state elections. Kejriwal right now wants to establish a model of governance in the states where people will start believing in good governance. With this good governance narrative in the future, the AAP will target the Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal understands that forming an alliance will stymie the spread of his governance philosophy.

The author is an independent journalist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre. He tweets as @sayantan_gh. Views expressed are personal.

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