New Delhi: Riding on its successful debut in the assembly elections in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday formally announced its bid to contest the Lok Sabha election due in 2014.
The party invited potential candidates to apply for nominations on the AAP ticket, even while it is undecided about how many seats it will contest out of the total 543 in the Lok Sabha. The AAP believes that an early exercise of inviting nominations will help it assess its strength across states.
Experts are, however, divided on the question of scalability. There’s one school of thought that the party, through participatory processes, is making an impact on the electorate. There’s another that this strategy may not find similar traction in rural areas.
Adhering to the selection process it adopted in the run-up to the Delhi elections, the party invited applications from anyone who can get signatures of 100 people from all assembly constituencies falling under a particular Lok Sabha constituency.
To smoothen out the process, the party has formed a subcommittee of its political affairs committee (PAC), which includes PAC members Sanjay Singh and Pankaj Gupta, who will be responsible for strategizing the party’s plan for the general election.
“There is a lot of speculation about the AAP’s plans for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The political affairs committee held a meeting on the same earlier, but the entire strategy has not been chalked out till now. The PAC has formed a subcommittee which will look into the strategies, processes and candidate selection for general elections," Yogendra Yadav, an AAP leader, told reporters on Thursday.
The application form, in English and Hindi, will be made available on the party’s website and can be sent either through post or scanned and sent through email. The party is also open to receiving applications from individuals associated with other political parties and social organizations.
“We will be holding meetings with state and district representatives and see our organization’s capability in those areas," Singh told reporters, adding that the party is yet to decide how many seats it will fight in each state.
N. Bhaskara Rao, a Delhi-based political analyst, says the party is sending a positive message to voters.
“This is certainly a good precedent. It is a masterstroke from a different point of view. They do not have units and databases everywhere. By doing this, they are creating a database everywhere and based on this they can proceed," Rao said. “It is also a good example of taking the first lead. They are trying to say that they may be a new party but they are starting early."
Even in Delhi, where it is set to form government on Saturday, the party had started out very early. While polling took place this month, the AAP invited applications from candidates as early as April.
In Delhi, through its grassroots campaign together with an inclusive process in finalization of candidates and manifestos, the party struck a chord with voters. It relegated the Congress to a distant third by winning 28 out of the total 70 seats in the legislative assembly.
Still, not everyone is convinced about the scalability of the AAP’s appeal, especially to constituencies that have a more rural populace.
“Their strategy may work in metropolises, but in smaller hamlets, villages, district towns and census towns this may not have the same resonance or be equally effective. They will certainly look at micro issues across states, but how local can you go when it comes to villages?" Badri Narayan, an Uttar Pradesh-based political analyst, asked. He added that it was possible that the AAP’s electoral appeal remains restricted to the middle class in metros.
“In states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, they will have to take up more transformative issues like land reforms, which even state governments don’t touch because it is so complicated," Narayan added.
Mintreported on 23 December that the AAP is looking at expanding its base in both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that together send 120 lawmakers to the Lok Sabha.
According to Narayan, nearly all the leaders of the AAP are from the urban middle class.
“Also, it is not like you can pick a candidate and in two months expect a turnaround in Lok Sabha elections. Let us not forget that the success in Delhi was not a result of two months of election preparations but three full years of work there," he said, referring to the AAP’s origin in early 2011 during the anti-corruption movement headed by activist Anna Hazare.