The Aam Aadmi Party has been a one-state wonder since its inception, confined largely to Delhi and distinguished by its uniquely urban character. His impressive debut in the elections for local bodies in Gujarat is not quite a watershed moment, but has certainly bolstered the ambitions of AAP chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to capture the occupied centrist space. by Congress.

The party – which swept Delhi’s municipal polls earlier this week – owes its success to a pro-governance, post-ideological policy designed to appeal to an urban audience, where caste identities are diluted and attitudes are more liberal , thanks to higher levels of education and interaction between diverse people. The party’s initial success stems from its origins as an anti-corruption movement, which enabled it to mobilize support from middle- and low-income groups.

Delhi model

Its focus on good governance, service delivery, well-being and massive investments in education and health have allowed it to build a solid base of support. At the same time, he avoided identity politics. During Shaheen Bagh’s agitation to protest the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “Hanuman-bhakt” and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal stayed out of the debate.

Voters rewarded the ideological neutrality of the AAP by rejecting the polarizing rhetoric of the BJP. Despite a vigorous campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ‘broom’ party swept the 2020 Assembly elections in Delhi with 62 of 70 seats. Thus, it would seem that town planning is the main force of AAP, at least in the national capital.

Rural voters tend to be more conservative, and caste and community gaps are more pronounced in these constituencies. Many class B and C cities still retain their rural character, but given the rapid pace of growth and immigration, they are doomed to urbanize more and more, creating space for parties like AAP. .

But Kejriwal is in a hurry to emerge as a national alternative to Congress. He intends to prove that the AAP is “not just an urban party” by contesting the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. To this end, the party has chosen to engage in Jat politics. in Haryana, Punjab and western UP, speaking out strongly against agricultural laws of 2020. Kejriwal even participated in a mahapanchayat in the UP earlier this week, sharing a platform with peasant leaders.

Punjab debacle

After the AAP debacle in the local organ elections in Punjab earlier this year, the party’s claim that it will soon move “from urban to rural” seems unfounded. Despite its support for the Farmer Agitation and a nine percent assembly seat share, the AAP won fewer seats than the independents.

As for Gujarat, the AAP replaced Congress as the main opposition in Surat municipal society, but civic poll results (released on Tuesday) show its success rate was only 2%. Obviously, the expected progress among the Agrarian Patidars, the community to which the AAP Head of State belongs, has not materialized.

Cultivating interest groups is always a gamble. It remains to be seen how Kejriwal’s rural foray will play out among his urban voters, but there is a prima facie conflict of interest between the farmers, who want the freedom to burn their fields, and the townspeople, who want it. ‘fresh air. In addition, the issue of farmers has no influence in eastern UP and Bihar, which make up 40 percent of Delhi’s electorate.

Credibility gap

In the Punjab, where ideological neutrality was the AAP USP, the widely held perception that he was sticking with extremists led to a huge lack of credibility and cost him the 2017 Assembly election. he inability to understand regional sentiments in a state that had undergone violent forms of identity politics, undermined its efforts to emerge as an alternative to Congress-Akali Dal. Further crippled by warring leaders, he was unable to build an effective organization. Her share of the vote has been in free fall since 2014, when she won 24% of the popular vote.

The AAP must learn from these mistakes and build on its strengths. Getting bogged down in the politics of caste and community is the opposite of what it represents. After all, Kejriwal, a baniya, managed to win localities dominated by Patidar in the Surat municipal elections.

In Delhi, the AAP has crafted a very compelling narrative, of making life easier through equitable access to services, a form of policy that can resonate among the marginalized urban poor in other cities. Thus, a more valid question for the party is whether it can replicate Delhi’s model elsewhere and challenge the BJP’s political dominance over the urban environment.

The writer is a seasoned journalist with 35 years of experience working with major newspapers and magazines. She is now a freelance writer and author.