Lucknow: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has only secured between a mere .1 to 1 per cent of the votes in its main electoral forays in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking to make a splash in the state ahead of the 2022 assembly polls.
Ever since AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on 15 December that the party will contest the UP elections, AAP has been on an overdrive in the state and has managed to create something of a stir.
The party’s strategy is revolving around taking on the Yogi Adityanath government on its development claims.
On Tuesday, senior AAP leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia landed in Lucknow and challenged UP Cabinet Minister Siddharth Nath Singh to an open debate on the ‘Yogi Model’ being pursued by the UP government.
Sisodia was in the capital city after a war-of-words between BJP and AAP leaders, over the Yogi government’s Covid-19 management and the state of schools in Uttar Pradesh, ended in calls for an open debate.
The local AAP unit had even set up a stage at the Gandhi Auditorium in Lucknow with posters of Singh, who is also the Yogi Adityanath government spokesperson.
AAP leaders waited for about an hour in the auditorium and after a Singh no-show, proceeded to a government school in Lucknow to “expose” the conditions there. They were, however, stopped enroute by local police.
Amidst this, Sisodia addressed the media and said, “I have come for a debate on the Yogi model versus the Kejriwal model. For the very first time, the leaders in the UP government have started to utter words such as education and health.
“Siddharth Nathji was talking about this on social media but he did not come forward to showcase the ‘model of development’, so I went out to see it for myself.”
ThePrint reached Siddharth Nath Singh via phone but his staff said the minister was busy with meetings.
‘Will corner state govt on dismal state of schools & hospitals’
AAP leaders told ThePrint that the party will focus on the state of government schools and hospitals as it will allow them to highlight their “achievements” in Delhi.
On Thursday, AAP’s UP in-charge Sanjay Singh announced that the party will launch a ‘Selfie with Government School’ campaign to expose the dismal condition of these schools in Uttar Pradesh.
“The party has directed its cadre in all 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh to click images of government schools with dismantled infrastructure or where the animals are grazing inside the school campus,” he told ThePrint.
“We have also asked them to post such images on social media and tag UP CM Yogi Adityanath in all such posts. We will expose the real state of these government schools.”
Sanjay Singh added that common people too could join the campaign.
Sources in the party said that they will also highlight the failure of the state’s healthcare system. They added that workers have been told to collect and keep data of community health centres and government hospitals in poor condition so that the party can compare them to the Mohalla clinics set up in Delhi.
“We will contest the 2022 assembly elections on the issues of education and health infrastructure in the state. We will also raise the issue of rampant corruption present during this regime,” AAP’s UP spokesperson Vaibhav Maheshwari told ThePrint. “We have a ‘Delhi model’ to showcase. Already, people from other parties are joining us and we are confident of a better performance in 2022.”
For all of its drive, however, AAP has a dismal electoral record in Uttar Pradesh. Its first effort came in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when it contested in 77 constituencies — it lost its deposit in 76 seats.
It fared no better in the 2019 Parliamentary elections when all seven candidates lost their deposits. In between, the party did manage to win 44 seats in the 2017 local body elections but it had fielded 3,400 candidates. It finished fifth among all contesting parties.
All of this, however, hasn’t stopped the party from eyeing a stake in the 2022 assembly elections. “We have seven years of governance experience in Delhi and have learnt from our mistakes in UP,” Maheshwari said.
Political experts, however, feel AAP has a long way to go before it can seriously challenge the BJP.
“As of now, the political fight in UP is too tough for AAP. There are already as many as four major and formidable parties (BJP, Congress, SP and BSP) in the state,” Kaviraj, Professor of Political Science at Lucknow University, told ThePrint.
“Apart from this, RLD and Apna Dal also have influence in several districts. In such a situation, it is not an easy task for any other party to carve a niche in the cut-throat politics of UP.”
Not a serious challenger, says BJP
The BJP too is unperturbed.
“The Aam Aadmi Party keeps carrying out such political stunts for publicity. In 2014 too, all these people had come to UP to try their luck,” UP BJP spokesperson Naveen Srivastava told ThePrint. “Kejriwal had himself contested from Varanasi. The results of that misadventure are there for all to see.”
Srivastava also defended the government.
“If they want to snap photos of UP’s government schools, then they should first collect pictures of the same schools before 2017 and compare them with the current ones to know how the Yogi government has transformed these schools,” he said.
“The Yogi government has distributed more than 60 million shoes, socks and bags to schoolchildren. This is for the first time that such items have been distributed in such large numbers in UP. There has also been constant recruitment of teachers in all the primary schools. ”
The spokesperson added that there can be no comparison between Delhi and UP. “The population of UP is 10 times that of Delhi but despite this, the Yogi government has worked hard and transformed the entire picture of the state’s education system.”