The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is quietly gaining ground in Assam.
The State unit of the Arvind Kejriwal-led party has been drumming up support since April. Its activities are not “visible” or “audible”, unlike the high-voltage AAP campaign in poll-bound Gujarat, latitudinally at the other end of India’s map.
But the party claims to be making the right noises at the right time, often stealing a march over stronger Opposition parties in Assam when it comes to criticising the BJP-led government’s decisions and policies.
The criticism is usually constructive, the AAP’s State coordinator Bhaben Choudhury said.
Soon after Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J.P. Nadda inaugurated the party’s six-storey office in Guwahati, a property worth more than ₹25 crore, the Assam Congress and the regional Assam Jatiya Parishad slammed the “splurging” amid the “fiscal gloom” all around.
The AAP chose to be different.
“We have nothing to say about the BJP or any party in power for a considerable period of time spending on itself. But we have dared the BJP to build some equally grand but affordable schools, hospitals and other public facilities across the State,” Mr. Choudhury told The Hindu.
The party’s voice, AAP leaders said, is getting stronger because of increasing support from the people. From hardly any member less than a year ago, the party now has more than 1.5 lakh members in Assam.
“The belief that the AAP can fill a political vacuum made it do unexpectedly well in the civic polls earlier this year without any base,” Mr. Choudhury said.
The AAP had contested 38 of the 60 seats in the Guwahati Municipal Corporation elections in April. It won one of the two seats the BJP failed to win but finished second in 22 others.
The party had also won a ward each in the municipal elections in Tinsukia and Lakhimpur towns a month before.
“We are into a membership drive at the panchayat level. We will get a fair idea of how the party is shaping up in the rural areas when the exercise is over by November,” Mr. Choudhury said.
Apart from Guwahati, the AAP has made inroads mostly in districts on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river, primarily Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath and Sonitpur districts. It has also stepped into the Bodoland Territorial Council areas, which are not known to be a happy hunting ground for non-local parties over the last two decades.