New Delhi: After staying away the last time around, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) under its national convener, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, has started preparing for the Haryana elections with a message of building a “New Haryana".

Taking the first few steps for elections due in around 18 months, the AAP leadership has set itself a target to increase its presence across the 16,000 polling booths in the state.

As in Punjab and Goa assembly polls last year, the AAP is likely to contest all 90 seats in Haryana. After refusing to contest the Haryana election in October 2014, a rethink in strategy is taking place in AAP because the party thinks it can benefit from a political vacuum in Haryana by becoming a third option in the state.

Also, the state’s proximity to AAP-ruled Delhi and the fact that Haryana is Kejriwal’s home state are factors in its favour.

“Currently, political parties in the state are only focussing on the politics of caste and religion. Development of the state is no longer on the agenda and that is forcing people to look for other alternatives. Being so close to Delhi, the people of Haryana can see the work that the AAP government has done there," said a senior AAP leader, who did not wish to be named.

Kejriwal has already made two visits to the state in less than a week. On Saturday, Kejriwal held a roadshow in the Rohtak-Bhiwani belt in Haryana, which is largely dominated by the Jat community. Last week, he had addressed a rally in Hisar where he announced the party’s plans to contest assembly elections in the state.

“We have to rebuild Haryana and a New Haryana cannot be made by old parties and old leaders. It’s time for change. AAP is the change. You have tried the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), Congress and INLD (Indian National Lok Dal). These parties served their own interests and ignored the common people. Other political parties divide people. Only the AAP can give you security, peace, build schools and hospitals, and help your trade flourish," Kejriwal said during his visit to the state on Saturday.

“In 2014, the impending elections in the Delhi at the time were of more importance for the party. Now that the government there is established, the party is in a position to grow its presence in Haryana," a senior AAP leader from Haryana said.

Senior leaders of the party believe that Haryana continues to suffer from corruption, law and order problems and lack of development initiatives under the present BJP government. A similar situation had prevailed in the state during the rule of Congress and INLD governments.

“While we have an organisational set-up at the assembly level, we are currently working on increasing that to the booth level. We are also going to go house to house to build our strength. The recent rally and road show in the state has also helped in increasing our volunteer base," the leader quoted earlier added.

The term of the assembly in Haryana ends in November 2019.