The Aam Aadmi Party, which has made clear its intentions of taking the fight to the Congress bastions in Uttar Pradesh, on Tuesday said it would contest the Amethi seat on the issue of “development”.
The party, buoyed after forming the government in Delhi, will kick off its Lok Sabha campaign in U.P. on January 12, with the Jan Vishwas rally in Amethi, the constituency held by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The AAP has indicated that its leader Kumar Vishwas would go heads on with Mr. Gandhi for the Amethi seat.
“Despite the constituency being represented by Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi, farmers here have to face hardships in getting a sack of fertiliser, roads are in a bad shape, government tubewells are out of order and it is corruption all around,” AAP national spokesman Sanjay Singh said in Amethi, where he held a meeting with party workers with regard to the preparations for the rally.
Stating that the people of Amethi were fed up of dynasty politics, Mr. Singh said, “We will contest the coming elections on the issues of people, that is development of Amethi.”
The party on Tuesday also held a Jan Sabha in Allahabad, pledging support to the students’ movement against the alleged corruption in the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission. The largely apolitical movement has recently gained support of the AAP and the BJP, with party workers also attending the demonstrations.
The AAP has said that it would contest all 80 seats in the State and claims that over a lakh people in U.P. have already applied for its membership.
Besides Mr. Gandhi, the party could field prominent candidates against Congress president Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli), BJP president Rajnath Singh (Ghaziabad) and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh (Mainpuri). According to party sources, AAP national executive member Prem Singh Pahadi was running for the Phulpur seat in Allahabad, once held by Jawaharlal Nehru. Incidentally, many of AAP’s key leaders like Manish Sisodia, Kumar Vishwas and Prashant Bhushan hail from U.P.
However, Allahabad-based researcher-analyst Badri Narayan Tiwari predicts that AAP’s performance in Delhi, where it sustained a social movement, would not be repeated in U.P. and the AAP was unlikely to cause any upsets in major constituencies. “Without a proper structure, the party‘s voting percentage could be compared to that of fringe parties like the Quami Ekta Dal,” he said.
He, however, said that the AAP could slightly dent the urban, middle class and youth votes of the Congress and the BJP, while not impacting the State parties SP and BSP.
The BJP and the Congress were dismissive of the AAP’s prospects. BJP state president Laxmikant Bajpai said the AAP would have “no impact whatsoever”. Congress spokesperson Dwijendra Tripathi welcomed AAP’s development agenda but said the newcomer's entry would make “no difference” in Amethi and Rae Bareli. “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are established leaders from these constituencies. The AAP has chosen to attack these seats merely to gain popularity,” he said.
In an incident on Monday, a scuffle broke out between workers of the AAP and the Congress at the Ramlila ground in Amethi during a public debate organized by a TV channel. AAP workers, who were outnumbered, alleged that they were manhandled and chased away from the place. Manish Dwivedi, one of the AAP workers who was allegedly beaten, said “Around 250-300 Congress workers were there when we reached the spot. They were trying to force us to remove our caps and when we resented, lashed out at us.” Amethi station officer O.P Singh said the incident was a minor one and the AAP had not lodged any complaint.