The Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) electoral success in its debut electoral local body polls in Gujarat is not a good signal for ruling BJP and the Congress. TheAAP won 27 seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC). Although BJP retained power in the SMC by winning 93 seats, the AAP bagged the remaining 27 seats. The Congress failed to win even a single seat and was replaced by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s party as the main opposition in SMC.Significantly, in the 2017 Gujarat election, AAP had failed to win any seat despite Kejriwal’s campaign.
AAP had received a shot in the arm by winning a significant number of village panchayat seats in Maharashtra. The party won 145 Gram Panchayat seats in 14 districts in the recently held elections to 12,711 Gram Panchayats in the state. AAP had contested 300 seats in these districts and also four panels in Dapkyal village in Latur district, Betech and Marora villages in the Naxal affected Gadchiroli district and Gunjegaon village in Solapur district.
AAP is now set to grow its footprint by contesting forthcoming Zilla Parishad and Municipal elections this year with like-minded people and parties and in Gujarat assembly polls in 2021. It seems that people now want a change in urban areas and the AAP is emerging as an alternative to the established parties.
No doubt, the Congress, the main Opposition party, is under pressure to perform well in poll-bound states — Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala — and the Union Territory of Puducherry. In West Bengal, the party’s seat-sharing talks with the newly formed Indian Secular Front (ISF) are still underway with the Left-Congress alliance keen to have the fledgling party on board to pocket some of the 30 percent Muslim votes in the state. In Assam too, the party is yet to finalise seat-sharing agreement with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF, its main ally in the polls.
In Tamil Nadu, the Congress is banking fully on the DMK to dethrone the incumbent AIADMK. In Keralas bipolar politics, after a resounding victory in the recent local body polls, the incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF) is confident of continuing in office, while in Puducherry the grand old party is left with hardly any strength after the recent fall of the government to face an aggressive BJP, which is leaving no stone unturned to make inroads in the southern belts.
The Congress also faces a major challenge in West Bengal where the TMC and the BJP have long launched their poll slogans, while the Left and Congress are still dithering on their joint strategy. The eight-phase elections in West Bengal are likely to witness a keen contest between the TMC and the BJP, with the Left parties seeking to regain control after allying with the Congress. In 2016 assembly polls , the Congress-Left alliance bagged 38 percent votes, seven percent less than TMC. But in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP emerged as the main rival to Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and the combined vote share of the Congress and the Left plummeted to 15 percent.
Needless to say, winning at least one state is key to the revival of the sagging morale of Congress workers and the credibility of Rahul Gandhi in the party.