Interview

‘We want to be a principled force in national politics’

Creating history, the Aam Aadmi Party decimated the Bharatiya Janata Party and knocked the Congress off from the political stage by winning 67 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly election. In an interview with Gargi Parsai, party leader and noted psephologist Yogendra Yadav says that the AAP is now looking to emerge as a force to reckon with in national politics.

Did you expect such a stupendous win?

As you know we had done a survey and made a forecast of 51 seats as a likely scenario and said it could go up to 57. At that point people thought we were doing political propaganda but that was not the case. Clearly as you can see we ended up underestimating our party. 57 yes; 67, I did not expect. This is amazing; it is historic. I can think of a few parallels such as by the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu once and by Sikkim Sangram Parishad another time.

In terms of vote share?

I think Sikkim Sangram Parishad had broken that record. Otherwise the AAP’s vote share of 54 per cent is one of the highest ever.

In a way the verdict threatens the existence of the BJP and the Congress in Delhi?

This is something we can say in all fairness about the Congress. It has become a rump organisation as in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and so on. It seriously faces a crisis of existence in many parts of the country. The BJP is down but I would still not say BJP is out in Delhi. It has a deep organisation and has the capacity to bounce back. It is a wake-up call for the BJP. The juggernaut has been halted which opens lots of possibilities. It opens a breathing space within the BJP, vis-à-vis the media. It is a timely reminder that issues such as ‘ghar vapsi’ and Godse statue, etc. is why people had not voted for them [in Delhi] and it can be a major setback. I think the message has gone home — on the communal front and on the economic agenda — that you cannot take the aam aadmi for granted.

The verdict enjoins a big responsibility on the AAP?

Yes, it brings in lots of expectations and aspirations and in a way, this is what democracy is all about. So, now it is time to accept the verdict with a bowed head and go ahead and work and as Arvind Kejriwal said, it is scary.

What went in your favour?

The fact that elections were not held in Delhi after the Lok Sabha polls. This gave Kejriwal a window of opportunity to strengthen the organisation… We knew the BJP had a huge organisation and we would have to match it. That is what we did. Then the AAP adopted a constructive agenda. The Delhi Dialogue we held was very useful. During the Lok Sabha election, people were saying that we were courageous, not corrupt, but did we know how to run a government? In the last three months we gave reply to these questions — on water, electricity, education, health.

Was this vote a referendum on the Modi government at the Centre or the 49 days of AAP government?

It certainly was a referendum on our 49 days and it did show that people had a much better image of those 49 days than the media or our opposition would like it to believe. I also suspect that when people experienced a bit of the BJP government, their memory of our 49 days grew fonder. As for being a referendum on the Modi government, normally a State election and that too in a small State like Delhi should not be a referendum. But I thought the Prime Minister really went out of his way to turn this into one. He said that what happens in Delhi reflects the national mood. He invested his personal prestige. He also got into this verbal onslaught on Kejriwal which frankly is not becoming of a Prime Minister. It lowered the office in some ways. So what should not have been a referendum on the Prime Minister has — because of his own role — become a bit of that. I would still not say that he is unpopular as a Prime Minister. All I would say is that his capacity to transfer his popularity to whoever he wants — even an empty chair — that has definitely gone down.

What do you make of Mr. Modi hand-picking Kiran Bedi as chief ministerial candidate?

The choice clearly boomeranged. But I would not think she is the principal reason the BJP lost. We must remember that she was chosen precisely when the BJP had definite information that they were trailing in that election. They hoped that she would be that turnaround but she turned out to be the turnaround in the opposite direction.

What is the future plan of the AAP to expand its base in the country?

In the long run, we see AAP as a party which has a national purpose. It is not a regional political party. It is an experiment in alternative politics which aims to be a principle and principled force in national politics. At the same time, we cannot do it overnight. The journey from where we are to where we would like be is a journey that needs to be carefully charted for which we have to sit down and decide on a roadmap about electoral strategies in different States. As of now, we have not decided on that strategy.

There was a rumour that you were going to tie up with the JD(U) in Bihar.

I don’t see how that can work or why that would make sense. We are not merely an anti-Congress or anti-BJP party. We are against the political establishment of the country and that establishment includes all those parties which are or have been in power at the state level. If we were to tomorrow sit down with Mr. Lalu Prasad, what kind of a plank of honest politics would we be left with?

I notice you have not set any deadlines.

We have learnt from our experience that what people want is not immediate delivery; they want sure delivery. People have much greater patience than we thought they do.

Will you be able to deliver the kind of governance you want without full statehood to Delhi?

We must not presume that the Central government will not extend to us the same courtesy that they extend, to say, the Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh government. It is a federal polity and we must begin by assuming that the Central government would live with the spirit of federalism.

gargi.parsai@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 11:44:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/we-want-to-be-a-principled-force-in-national-politics/article6879359.ece

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