AAP Makes Inroads in Gujarat: Kejriwal to Visit Surat on 26 Feb
The Aam Aadmi Party won 27 of the 120 seats in the Surat municipal corporation, while Congress was trounced.
While the BJP has cemented its domination of the Gujarat urban local bodies, with the results of the elections announced on Tuesday, 23 February, showing a better performance by the party than in 2015, what has also made headlines is the Aam Aadmi Party's gains in the state, as it won 27 of the 120 seats in the Surat municipal corporation.
AAP's showing has made it the main opposition party against the BJP in Surat, while the Congress has been left with no seats. So, what are the factors that helped the Kejriwal-led party make inroads in the city? How have its leaders responded and what might be the way forward for the party?
How Did AAP Make Inroads in Surat?
One of principal factors being cited for AAP's performance is the support it got from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), that has been demanding reservation for the Patidar community in Gujarat.
PAAS representatives were reportedly upset with the Congress for not fielding many candidates suggested by them and are said to have tacitly supported the AAP in protest against both Congress and BJP.
This ensured a strong performance for the party in areas said to be dominated by Patidars, including Varaccha, Katargram, Kapadra, Amroli, among others.
And with AAP’s performance, the party that lost out was the Congress, with 25 of the 27 seats that the former bagged, being previously held by the latter.
AAP's Gujarat chief, Gopal Italia, is also from the Patidar community and was earlier involved with PAAS and its former leader Hardik Patel, who is now with the Congress.
Patidars form a major chunk of the traders in Surat and their vote might have been instrumental in many of AAP's victories.
What Have AAP Leaders Said?
Soon after the results became clear, AAP's National Convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal congratulated the people of Gujarat for "introducing a new kind of politics."
Kejriwal also announced that he would be coming to Surat on 26 February to thank the people. "The Aam Aadmi Party has performed brilliantly in Gujarat's municipal elections. Gujarat has introduced honest and work-oriented politics," he said.
Several other party leaders also took to Twitter to mark the party's inroads into Gujarat.
Meanwhile, AAP's Gujarat in-charge Gulab Singh reportedly said, "Before the 2022 Assembly election, AAP will take to the streets to expose the BJP's corruption. AAP will emerge as a strong opposition party across Gujarat, as the party will win many more seats in the rural local body polls."
The Way Forward
The performance in Gujarat takes AAP one step close to its aim of becoming a national party, that requires it to be recognised as a state party in four states. It is already recognised as a state party in Delhi and Punjab.
Meanwhile, the next phase of local elections in Gujarat is on 28 February, when 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats will be going to polls.
It may also be significant to note here that the BJP’s stronghold in the state lies in the big cities. In rural Gujarat, its grip has been weaker, and often been challenged by Congress in the past.
The performance in Surat might energise the Aam Aadmi Party to work towards becoming a considerable force by the time the next Assembly elections are held in the state in 2022.
(With inputs from Aditya Menon.)
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