‘If AAP Fails To Deliver, Punjabis Will Never Forgive It’

Jashan Gill, a Punjab voter who defied family loyalties to pick AAP over Akali Dal and Congress, says the party stands at a juncture from where it can make or break its future

In 2014 General Election, it was for the first time that I voted for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Punjab has been enthusiastic about the party since its inception. And this was the reason, four AAP candidates were elected to the Lok Sabha on their debut contest from the state.

In the assembly election of 2017, the AAP emerged as the main opposition with 20 seats. And now, in 2022, eight years since its journey began in Punjab, the party has been able to form government in the state with a clear mandate. Punjab’s voters found them as a viable alternative to the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal.

This change was impending for long. Both the SAD and the Congress had been unable to fulfil the expectations of the people of Punjab. The border regions of the state have been infested with drugs menace and there is widespread belief that the SAD has a vested interest in it. During their rule, the corruption in the state also reached at its zenith.

Punjabis therefore rooted out the Badal government in 2017 in favour of the Congress. But the Congress didn’t fulfil its promises either. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh became too complacent after the win and forgot about his poll promises of development.

The situation at the party further deteriorated when inside scuffle broke out in the open, making it a laughing stock. The chaos was too much to bear. Even during election people didn’t know who would be the chief minister of the state if the Congress came to the power.

Gill (left) says Punjab has high expectations from Bhagwant Mann and Arvind Kejriwal

This clearly turned people’s attention towards the AAP leadership. The party projected Bhagwant Mann as the chief ministerial candidate in the state election and the decision found favour with the voters. For, in the past eight years, since 2014 general election, Mann has done commendable work in his constituency and showed his commitment towards the people. It was no surprise that Punjab gave him a chance to work for the entire state.

ALSO READ: Punjab Will Reclaim It Glory Under AAP Leadership

We have already started witnessing the change since AAP came to power in the state. The first priority of the party, which was about stopping corruption has already been enforced. The government employees, who would brazenly ask for bribes earlier, are now scared of making such demands from people. They are afraid of stern actions now.

The conditions of hospitals and schools in the state is already showing improvement. You can visit a hospital and feel the change in the atmosphere. We believe that Mann government will also address the issue of drugs soon. Farmers too have a lot of expectations from this new government. They believe that the AAP leadership will find a solution to receding water table and provide minimum support price for all their crops.

If the party successfully fulfils its promise in the state, it will pave a path for the party to emerge as an alternative to the BJP in other states and eventually at the Centre. As an AAP supporter I hope that it emerges as a challenger in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana where elections are likely to happen late this year.

AAP is standing at a crucial juncture in Punjab from where it can write its own future. Punjabis have put their faith in AAP and if they fail to keep their promises, the people will never forgive them. It will be uprooted from the state once and for all. The people of Punjab have voted for development and they will not settle for anything except development.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

Weekly Update: Rise And Rise Of Kejriwal & What Makes Nations Happy

At 53, by the standards of Indian politics, Arvind Kejriwal has a lifetime ahead of him for his political career. But already he has made impressive strides. Currently serving his third term as chief minister of Delhi, Kejriwal and his party, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) recently swept the elections in Punjab, recording a historic event in Indian politics by a relatively small regional party, long confined to only Delhi, to spread its wings to another much bigger state.

Under Kejriwal’s leadership, AAP’s trajectory in Indian politics has been controversial. A civil servant with an engineering degree from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kejriwal turned to political activism and then joined a nationwide movement against corruption. Then, in 2012 he formed the AAP to contest elections in Delhi. AAP won the Delhi elections three times and Kejriwal has since then established his party’s dominance in that state.

The victory in Punjab, however, marks his party’s move to other states and can be considered as a stepping stone to establish the party on the map of national politics. What works for AAP is the party’s demonstrated commitment to clean politics and accountability. Unlike other national parties that have traditionally formed governments in the state of Delhi–the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)–AAP has provided citizens with tangible results. Delhi’s schools, mohalla clinics, water and electricity supplies, especially for the poorest, have all significantly improved during AAP’s tenure.

Not surprisingly, such focus on the “aam aadmi” or common man has ensured that his party gets the mass support that it has consistently in Delhi and now in Punjab. AAP contests elections by talking about promising improvements on basic local issues. Its rivals such as the Congress and the BJP, on the other hand, either push personality-driven campaigns or ones that are less granular when it comes to improving people’s lives. 

As the AAP victory in Punjab shows, the ordinary voter is tired and sometimes even fed up with so-called career politicians that lead the older, national parties. To many of them, AAP represents a breath of fresh air–a political party that identifies with their real needs. The question, however, is whether Kejriwal and his party can leverage this image to make a mark on national politics. Could Kejriwal become an alternative to, say, a national leader such as Narendra Modi?

You could say it is too early to pitch Kejriwal as an alternative to Modi but in Indian politics, nothing is impossible. Nothing can be ruled out. AAP’s storming of Punjab bears testimony to that. The next parliamentary elections are due in May 2024, which is barely two years away. Before that, later this year there will be elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Next year, there will be many other states where elections will be held, notably Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (but also in Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka, Mizoram, and Telangana).

If AAP has a gameplan to spread its wings wider, it could, at least in theory, surely focus on states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. These are in a manner of speaking low hanging fruit that the party could focus on. All three are states where the majority of the population is poor and under-privileged, which is quite clearly the groups that AAP targets not only in its campaigns, but also by way of the policies that it adopts–its achievements in Delhi are evidence of that. If AAP can make inroads in these three states (and it already has Delhi and Punjab), could it not be a force to reckon with when the parliamentary elections are held?

You could call it wishful thinking but consider this: on the horizon of national politics in India, there is a dearth of alternatives to the BJP and to the towering image of Modi. The Congress is a faltering shadow of its past, unable to win elections, either in the states or nationally. The other regional parties, be it those that run states in the south such as the DMK in Tamil Nadu, or in the east such as the Trinamool Congress, may have charismatic leaders such as M.K. Stalin and Mamata Banerjee, respectively, but till date they have not demonstrated the prowess required to spread their electoral wins beyond their regional fiefs. Against that background, could Kejriwal and his party stand apart as a future alternative to the BJP at the Centre? It could be a point to ponder.

Happiest Nations Of The World

For five years, a popular survey has ranked the tiny Nordic country of Finland (population 5.5 million) as the happiest country in the world. Finland, along with other Nordic countries are at the top of that ranking list consistently. What makes people in nations such as that feel “happy” is a bunch of things but mainly these: a robust social welfare system, low crime rates, an abundance of natural beauty, an emphasis on community and co-operation, universal health care, and very few people living in poverty. These factors are taken so much for granted in, say, Finland that people living in that country are often bewildered why their nation is ranked as being the happiest! 

At the other end of the ranking, the picture is grim. Afghanistan ranked the lowest among the 149 countries surveyed. Ravaged by wars and the recent return of the Taliban regime, its performance in the survey should not come as a surprise. 

But it is India’s performance that should be of grave concern. India hasn’t fared much better than Afghanistan. It ranks at 136 among the 149 countries. China with which India likes to compare itself ranks at 82. The USA is at 19. And even Pakistan at 103, and Bangladesh at 99 are higher than India. 

Surveys come with caveats such as small sample sizes, biases, and other inaccuracies, but if the people of a country perceive themselves as being so unhappy, isn’t it time for the government to take note and address the problem?

‘Punjab Will Rise And Flourish Again’

Tejinder Singh, 60, district president (Jalandhar) of Aam Aadmi Party, says party office is flooded with calls from people to act as volunteers

I have been associated with the Aam Aadmi Party since 2016 and I feel very elated that the people of Punjab have given us such an overwhelming majority in state Assembly. It will help us to bring about required changes in the state now easily. People are super happy too because everyone wanted change, logon ko azadi mil gayi hai.

Earlier governance was moving at a snail’s pace and the common man’s work would languish. But people have put their faith in AAP because they know we care, after all our candidates are all ordinary folks, people who understands concerns of the common man.

Our whole office was abuzz with extraordinary energy on the day the results were declared. Sweets were distributed among the party workers and we met up and congratulated each other. We had expected a good performance but we had not expected such a humongous response to our efforts. I feel satisfied that we were able to convince people to give us a chance to genuinely serve them, especially in the area of education, healthcare etc.

Tejinder Singh (in yellow turban) celebrates party win in Assembly elections

We started door to door campaigning nearly 2.5 years ago and actively listened to the concerns of the people from every section of society. People have voted beyond caste and community lines for good governance. After all at the end of the day everyone wants to feel secure about basic facilities, which we are determined to provide. Be it rural or urban areas, we reached out and people responded.

ALSO READ: ‘Punjab Will Reclaim Its Glory Under AAP’

Every day hundreds of calls are pouring in and people want to volunteer for us; people love the idea of being a part of governance. The good work done in Delhi served as a point of reference for most voters, however it wouldn’t be wise to say that the socio-economic concerns of the two states are the same. Issues like drug menace will take longer to uproot and lots of local leaders will need to step up.  

We are determined to help Punjab flourish once again. When the farmers protests were going on we didn’t lose sight of many other concerns that were equally important and I am glad that we have got the votes of farmers as well. People were determined to vote for change this time no matter what and iss bar sabnein ankhein khol ke vote diya.

One of the reasons people also trusted the AAP was because of our groundwork during the pandemic as well as during the vaccination stage. We got ourselves vaccinated first so that people could see it was safe and that it worked. We hope to continue with the same leadership style; we will face the problems first head on so that they don’t reach common people.

The BJP, Akali Dal, Congress will now understand how important it is to connect with people at an emotional level. We believe the Aam Aadmi Party government led by Bhagwant Mann will usher Punjab towards a golden future.

As Told To Yog Maya Singh

‘I Will Bet On Arvind Kejriwal To Sweep Punjab Polls’

Baneet Sharma, 37, a French teacher in Nabha (Punjab), says Aam Aadmi Party can rid state of its major problems like corruption and drugs menace

In my 37 years of life I have been keenly observing the political landscape of Punjab. As far as my personal understanding of the state is, based on in-depth creditable media reports, Punjab is facing three main challenges: corruption, drugs menace and falling education standards due to mindless privatisation in the sector.

These issues dominate the ongoing state assembly election campaign. As a teacher, I have witnessed first-hand how a whole crop of engineers and other professionals are being churned out without any proper knowledge of the subject matter. In Punjab there are a lot of these private universities that are appealing on the surface but don’t have the tools, faculty and the setup to teach say a subject like Aeronautical Engineering or even lesser niche subjects. This affects the supply of trained human resources. So, any party that cares about the issues of the youth is a winner for me.

Thus, Mr Arvind Kejriwal is a winner for me, for the AAP Government in Delhi has turned around the quality of government school education. Kejriwal is a highly knowledgeable leader who understands the value of formal education. I will support Bhagwant Mann as the chief minister only because he is backed by Mr Kejriwal. The state has tried Akali Dal-BJP combination as well as Congress in government. Their years in power have done little for the state. I think it is high time we gave a new party the chance.

Sharma (right) feels AAP can bring about the desired change in Punjab politics

In these tough times of pandemic, a party in power must care about the middle class. The poor can avail of free ration and other help while the rich have savings. It is the middle class which suffers the most. I am a teacher and in the last three years have seen various educational institutes either folding down or operating erratically during the many lockdowns.

ALSO READ: ‘AAP Will Win Punjab, Kisan Morcha Needs Time’

How are we supposed to earn a living? How are we supposed to feed our families and take care of their immunity, medical and other needs? We have EMIs to pay, loans to repay and other expenses that keep rising. We need a party that can see through the pain of people. People need stability in uncertain times and politicians should step in.

Captain Amarinder Singh toh Raja Sahab hain. He isn’t here to serve, but to relax. Navjot Singh Sidhu on the other hand is hyperactive. He speaks so much and makes little sense. He treats politics like a cricket pitch. He always wants to hit sixers and the audience applause. Politics goes deeper than that. Congress should understand Sidhu isn’t a great leader.

As far as the political party floated by farmers Sanyukt Samaj Morcha is concerned, I feel it will only act as a vote cutter for the Akali Dal, BJP and Congress. Akali Dal has so far asked for votes on the basis of religious identity and have won, but now the Janata is disappointed in them. Farmers are particularly disappointed in them and their votes will now likely go to AAP.

But at the end, I hope whoever leads the state, serves its people well and takes note of the needs of each class, and all major issues faced by the state.

Watch – ‘Kejriwal Spoiling Our Generation With Freebies’

Supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party in Delhi feel that Aam Aadmi Party is setting in a culture of muftkhori (freebies) which will prove costly in the long run for sustainable supplies. Besides, the subsidies are only targeted to the owners and not tenants, mostly immigrants from other states, because they do not constitute AAP’s core voter base.

Real Reasons Why Kejriwal Won A 3rd Term In Delhi

Ever since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by Mr Arvind Kejriwal, decisively swept the recent Delhi elections and won 62 of the 70 assembly seats, India’s political analysts have been assigning various reasons for that victory. Mr Kejriwal is back as chief minister of the state for the third term (his first term was a short one, lasting barely a couple of months; but his second tenure as chief minister lasted the full five years) and the post-result analyses in Indian media have attributed his comeback to multiple factors.

Some analysts have said Mr Kejriwal avoided confronting his main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs India’s central government, by largely keeping silent about the widespread protests in his state against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Those protests still continue and recently police action in some of the university campuses in Delhi turned grimly violent. By not forthrightly condemning or supporting the CAA or the protests against it, some analysts have argued, Mr Kejriwal managed to win over the Hindu majority voters who might have otherwise swung towards the BJP. Yet others have said Mr Kejriwal may have adopted a soft form of pro-Hindu campaigning—visits to temples; chanting of scriptures and slogans; and so on—to beat the BJP at its own game.

Some of these “analyses” could be over-wrought and, in some cases, even quite inaccurate. Delhi may be home to some of India’s richest people but the fact remains that almost half (49%) of Delhi’s 14.3 million voters live in the National Capital Territory’s (NCT) slums. These slums are home to Delhi’s poorest. Arguably, the value of a vote for poorer voters is far higher than that of richer, more privileged voters. And when nearly 63% of Delhi’s voters turned up to vote, it is reasonable to believe the larger proportion of them were poor voters rather than their richer counterparts.

So then why did Delhi’s citizens vote unequivocally for Mr Kejriwal and his AAP? An indication of the answer could lie on this very website that you are currently perusing. Shortly after the results were declared and AAP emerged as the unchallenged winner (compared to its 62 seats, its closest rivals fared terribly: the BJP got 8 and the Congress none), Lok Marg’s team sent out reporters to ask people why they voted for Mr Kejriwal’s party. Videos of those interviews may be watched on the site below

WATCH: Why Delhi Voted For Kejriwal

Even a casual perusal of those videos will show why people, particularly poor Delhiites living in the under-privileged colonies of the city-state, opted to click on the AAP’s broom symbol when they turned up to vote. The reasons are basic and pertain to fundamental needs of citizens. In his five-year term as chief minister, Mr Kejriwal and his government have been perceived to have delivered on their promises. The poor have benefited from reduced or highly subsidised supplies of electricity and water. Broken roads, and drainage systems have been repaired; CCTV surveillance and street-lighting in crime-prone areas have been installed; and education, meals, and teachers’ attendance at Delhi state’s government-run schools have improved.

These are just a few of the achievements of the AAP government in the past five years. In a state like Delhi—which is home to more than 20 million people—these are significant factors that determine how its citizens vote. What Mr Kejriwal’s pronouncements are on the CAA or the student protests at various Delhi universities and colleges may matter much less to the average Delhiite than the basic facilities that he or she expects their government to make accessible to them. And on that count, Mr Kejriwal’s return to power could be a people’s referendum on his past performance and their faith in his governance rather than the nuances of his utterances on recent political developments.

Watch: Aam Aadmi Reacts To Kejriwal’s Win

Delhi’s elections are unlike those of other bigger states because Delhi is a unique sort of a state. The Delhi government’s ambit doesn’t extend to law and order (Delhi’s police force reports to the central government). Likewise, the allocation or use of Delhi’s land falls under the central government; central Delhi’s New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) falls under the central government, while the three other municipal corporations report to the state’s Lieutenant-Governor who is an appointee of the central government.

This “special status” of the state of Delhi has meant that its elected government is constrained from acting as a full-fledged government. It has also led to frequent conflict and friction between the state’s government and the central government, factors that get particularly exacerbated when the parties in charge of the state and those in charge of the central government are rivals. Mr Kejriwal’s second tenure, since 2015, has been marked by such tensions. Yet, his achievements have not been insignificant. The people’s verdict that has won him a third term is clear proof of that.

Delhi Elections: Kejriwal Sidesteps Shah’s Communal Bait

Outsmarting the heavy-handed, powerful and well-funded electoral juggernaut engine of the BJP in the coming Delhi Elections, Arvind Kejriwal is playing by his game plan, frustrating Amit Shah’s well known strategy of communal and divisive politics. The Delhi Election is only a week away. The capital has eluded the BJP for 22 years. It is desperate to ‘own’ it.

Predictably, the saffron party’s campaign, led by home minister Amit Shah, has been aimed at polarising voters along religious lines. Its infamous and well tested strategy of dividing the opposition, isolating a minority and infusing a communal agenda in the election is being thrown at full force to wrest Delhi from Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party. But Kejriwal is avoiding a counter attack. The question on people’s mind is whether he will buckle.

ALSO READ: Why Kejriwal Still Has The Edge

The young Aam Admi Party is proving to be a tough and smart competitor. The Delhi chief minister has refused to take the BJP’s bait and deliberately steered clear of engaging with the saffron party on the ongoing Shaheen Bagh protest, a recurring theme in Shah’s speeches.

The home minister and the BJP’s army of campaigners has launched a vicious attack against the protest, describing it as an anti-national act. They have accused opposition parties of supporting the agitation who, they charge, are speaking Pakistan’s language. While inciting violence, the BJP has also gone as far as to describe Kejriwal as a terrorist.

Kejriwal’s AAP is, however, treading cautiously. Well aware that it is ill-equipped to counter the BJP’s brand of communal politics, the party is keeping the focus on its government’s achievements. Despite provocation from the other side, Kejriwal has not deviated from this carefully-crafted strategy of continuously highlighting how his government reduced power and water bills, improved the quality of education in government schools, set up mohalla clinics to provide health facilities in slums and introduced free bus travel for women.

ALSO READ: Amit Shah Is Playing With Fire

The subtle message of his “positive” campaign is that good governance benefits all sections of society and is not aimed at appeasing any one caste or community. On its part, the BJP has attempted to discredit Kejriwal for not delivering on his promises by pointing to the poor conditions in schools and the non-functioning mohalla clinics. But this has not cut much ice with the people. The underclass is firmly with the AAP. However, it is not clear if the BJP’s polarising campaign is having an impact, especially on the middle classes which are known to be taken in easily by its majoritarian agenda.

Kejriwal has always been adept at playing the victim card. When he entered politics seven years ago, he was constantly at war with the Modi government which, he charged, was meting out step-motherly treatment to Delhi only because it was led by the AAP. He complained that his government’s proposals were deliberately kept pending by the Centre and that he was not even allowed to appoint officials of his choice. But he has changed tack over the past year. Kejriwal stopped attacking Modi and even supported the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370. Instead, the Delhi chief minister concentrated on propagating his government’s achievements and kept himself busy, launching a slew of schemes before the declaration of elections.

ALSO READ: If Shah Can’t Budge, Shaheen Bagh Too Won’t

As he fights to retain power for a second consecutive term, Kejriwal got another shot at playing the victim when BJP leader Parvesh Verma described him as a terrorist during the ongoing poll campaign. Instead of adopting a combative stand, which had become his trademark, Kejriwal struck an emotional note, saying he gave up his government job, sat on hunger strike in his fight against corruption and worked tirelessly to improve the education and health facilities in Delhi despite being severely diabetic. “I leave it to the people of Delhi to decide if they think of me as a son, brother or a terrorist,” he said plaintively.

This is not the first time that Kejriwal has donned a new avatar. He came into the limelight during the 2011 anti-corruption movement, demanding the immediate enactment of a Jan Lokpal Bill to scrutinize corruption cases against government officials and politicians.

But the activist-turned-politician quickly shifted his stand after the formation of the Aam Admi Party. Though he came to power on the anti-corruption plank, Kejriwal instead found merit in wooing the poor jhuggi jhopri residents and the lower middle classes by promising them cheaper power and water and better infrastructure, thus successfully hijacking the Congress support base.

The choice of a broom as his election symbol was another masterstroke as the scheduled castes immediately related to it as they believed it gave them dignity. At the same time, the broom symbolised the sweeping away of corruption and the promise of a cleaner government. Kejriwal also surprised mainstream political parties by building a strong party organization in a short span of time.  His band of soldiers kept a low profile and worked tirelessly and silently in the slums as well as tony upper-middle-class colonies. He shocked his political rivals when the AAP won 67 of the 70 Delhi assembly seats in 2015. 

For the BJP, the Delhi assembly election has become a prestige issue. For fifteen years, it tried but failed to dislodge the Congress. Today, it has put its entire election machinery at work to oust Kejriwal’ AAP, its new political enemy Unable to corner Kejriwal on the issue of poor governance, the BJP decided to go back to what is its trump card: communal polarisation. Besides demonizing the Shahbeen Bagh protesters, the BJP leaders are also highlighting the abrogation of Article 370, the triple talaq bill and the new citizenship law as the Modi government’s achievements to woo voters.   

Though the BJP’s strategy of focusing on national issues did not yield the desired results in the recent Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand assembly polls, the party  is banking on the fact that as residents of  the country’s capital, voters in  Delhi have far greater exposure to national issues and are more influenced by them than voters in other states. It is equally true that the BJP has no choice but to highlight its ideological agenda as it is finding it difficult to corner the AAP on the issue of governance.