Home / Politics / Policy /  Uttar Pradesh, Bihar on AAP radar amid push into more states

New Delhi: After a stellar debut in the Delhi assembly elections, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is focusing on other states including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which together send 120 lawmakers to the Lok Sabha, for the general election due by May next year.

The party has identified electoral issues in the two northern states, and its representatives have been swift in carrying out membership drives and its trademark door-to-door campaign to spread awareness about the AAP.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, dominated by regional political parties, are crucial to the electoral calculations of both the Congress party, which heads the Union government, and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which have only 24 and 22 Lok Sabha seats, respectively, out of the total 120 from these two states.

In Uttar Pradesh, ruled by the Samajwadi Party (SP), the AAP is banking on a four-cornered fight that it hopes will split the votes in its favour. In Bihar, the party hopes to encash on the new political realignment in the state post the split in the ruling alliance of the Janata Dal (United), or JDU, and the BJP, which is now in the opposition.

“A certain kind of political cycle is getting complete specifically in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar," said Ajit Jha, national executive member of the AAP. “People have tried many kind of alternatives. They have rejected the Congress and the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and the same for Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party) and Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP). The social groups on whose identity they flourished, even such groups are no longer enamoured by them."

The AAP, as a new political entity built on an anti-corruption movement, will have an advantage wherever the “electorate have tried available alternatives but have been disappointed", added Jha, who is working on strengthening his party in the two states.

The AAP has formed district committees in nearly all of Uttar Pradesh and has covered three-fourths of the districts in Bihar. To simplify its functioning and increase its reach, the AAP has divided the two states into several zones—Uttar Pradesh into Poorvanchal, Awadh, Paschimi Uttar Pradesh, Rohilkhand and Bundelkhand, and Bihar into Mithilanchal, Uttar Bihar, Magadh-Patna and Bhagalpur-Munger zones.

Arif Masumi, zonal coordinator for Magadh-Patna, said the AAP is looking at a target of at least 700,000 registered party members in Bihar before the general election. “In every district of Bihar, we have nearly 2,000-3,000 registered members. So we have roughly 80,000 to one lakh (100,000) members currently. However, our target is seven lakh members before elections next year and we are hopeful about it," Masumi said.

According to Masumi, the biggest electoral issue is corruption in the bureaucracy. While corruption is the overriding electoral plank of the AAP, it has also zeroed in on more micro issues for specific states.

In Bihar, the party will focus on chief minister Nitish Kumar’s alcohol policy that often has been criticized for the increase in drinking habits and hooch tragedies in the state. The state government set up Bihar State Beverages Corp. Ltd in 2006 to regularize alcohol distribution and thereby ease out the opening of liquor shops.

Yogendra Yadav, a member of the AAP’s national executive, said a triangular contest between the JDU, the BJP and the Rashtriya Janata Dal will help the party in Bihar. “Bihar is tough because there is a given configuration, a caste configuration there. The only thing that helps is the triangular contest involved," he said.

In Uttar Pradesh, the party is keen on flagging the plight of sugar cane farmers as its electoral agenda. “Sugar cane farmers are the most hit. The state’s policies are such that the compensation for them is not fair. The minimum support price for sugar cane is not been given in districts like Chandauli, and the government has no procurement policies for it," said Sanjeev Singh, a 38-year-old lawyer who is the zonal coordinator for the Poorvanchal area.

“In a state like Uttar Pradesh, the AAP is helping break electoral boundaries of caste and religion, and that is the healthiest sign," he added.

Cordelia Jenkins contributed to this story.

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