The Aam Aadmi Party is not averse to contesting elections in West Bengal, despite Mamata Banerjee’s recent overtures to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal which led many to believe that AAP would steer clear of electoral politics in the poll-bound state. AAP is flooding the state’s newspapers with advertorials on the Delhi government’s achievement, including airing promotional audios on FM radio. AAP’s spokesperson Deepak Bajpai confirmed to The Sunday Guardian that they do not rule out the possibility of putting up candidates for the Assembly elections due in April-May.
“We never said that we will not contest the West Bengal elections,” Bajpai told this correspondent. He, however, added, “No decision has been taken as yet. I cannot say we are not contesting the elections. The party leadership will have meetings and a decision will be taken soon on the course of action to be followed in West Bengal.”
The current development comes as a stark contrast to the growing bonhomie between Kejriwal and Banerjee. The West Bengal Chief Minister had invited her Delhi counterpart to attend a global business summit in Kolkata in January. In September last year, she had participated in Kejriwal’s ambitious Chief Ministers’ conclave in the national capital. The two leaders have come to be seen as the flag bearers of an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party camp at the Centre.
But with AAP doing a re-think about the political strategy in Bengal, Banerjee’s effort for a federal front is likely to take a beating. The AAP has indicated that in case it skips the Assembly elections this time, it will gear up for future electoral exercises in Bengal. “The party leadership will decide whether we will contest this state election or gear ourselves for future elections,” Bajpai said.
An AAP insider claimed that the advertorials will generate good-will for Kejriwal in different states and all this has been planned by the central leadership of the party with an eye on future state elections.
“I don’t think AAP will jump into fighting the West Bengal elections, though I cannot say it will not. But the leadership is trying to sell the achievements of the Delhi government in all other states so that it helps us when we want to reinvigorate our membership drive,” the source told The Sunday Guardian.
The AAP has given similar multi-page newspaper advertisements in Bihar, Punjab and Orissa.
Deepak Bajpai admitted this is being done to further the AAP’s agenda and influence at the national level. “We are not limited to Delhi. Our units and cadre are present across India, and we want to take our message to the states and to people all over India. Our advertisements are not meant to reap immediate electoral benefits. We have done a wonderful job in Delhi and we want to give hope to people. We want to tell them how an honest and well-performing government should be. We want to tell them that a people-friendly government is possible if the right party and the right leaders are elected. This is the message of the Aam Aadmi Party,” Bajpai said.
The Punjab Congress is already apprehensive about the Delhi government ads and state Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh has taken up the onus to find out how much money has been shelled out for the ad-drive. The Punjab Congress has proclaimed the ad-drive to be a covert exercise on part of AAP to promote Kejriwal. They have said this is a deviation from the party’s stated abhorrence for advertisement-driven politics.