Boosted by its landslide win in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday launched its campaign for the state assembly polls scheduled by November this year. The party began the campaign for the 68 assembly seats from this town, the home turf of the BJP’s incumbent Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, by saying, “It’s time to uproot corruption from Himachal Pradesh.”
In a massive show of strength, the party’s two Chief Ministers — Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi and Bhagwant Mann of Punjab — held a roadshow with the former pleading with the public saying, “AAP will uproot corruption from Himachal Pradesh too, if it comes to power”.
“You have given 30 years to the Congress and 17 years to the BJP to rule the state, all looted Himachal. Just give me five years. If you are not satisfied, you can change us,” the AAP’s national convener said.
He said first they eradicated corruption in Delhi, then in Punjab. “Now, it’s time to uproot corruption from Himachal Pradesh.”
“We are common people, we don’t know how to do politics. Instead, we know how to work for people, build schools and end corruption. We have ended corruption in just 20 days in Punjab since Bhagwant Mann became the chief minister. Now, ‘kranti’ (revolution) should happen in Himachal Pradesh too,” Kejriwal added.
Accusing both the BJP and the Congress of promoting dynasty politics, Punjab Chief Minister Mann said, “AAP promotes common man in politics to end corruption and ensure development of people.”
Himachal Pradesh was traditionally dominated by the Congress and saw its first non-Congress chief minister, Shanta Kumar, in 1977, when the Janata Party came to the helm.
After demolishing the citadels of all the major political parties in Punjab, the AAP is now preparing to conquer the hills of Himachal Pradesh in the November Assembly polls.
The conditions, on the face of it, are not averse for the party that swept away the traditional political outfits of the Akalis, the BJP and the Congress in Punjab.
A strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling BJP — evident from the loss of three Assembly and one parliamentary seat in the October 2021 bypolls — and the absence of veteran Chief Minister faces may work for the party that is already ruling in two states.
Both the conventional game changers — Virbhadra Singh of the Congress and Prem Kumar Dhumal of the BJP — are out of the scene. Singh is dead, while Dhumal is virtually in political exile after his defeat in the previous Assembly polls.
Political observers told IANS the pitch is more or less clear for the AAP, which is yet to mark its presence even in state civic body polls, to sweep away the traditional political outfits in the hill state where both the Congress and the BJP ruled alternatively from 1985.
In the past few weeks, the AAP has roped in 300,000 people in its membership drive. However, so far no senior leader either from the Congress or the BJP has joined the AAP.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain, in-charge of the Himachal Pradesh election campaign with the focus on health and education, has recently inducted 1,000-odd people from the constituency of Chief Minister Thakur, the first Chief Minister from Mandi, into the AAP.
Ahead of the Assembly polls, the AAP has announced to play a ‘semi-final’ to test the waters by its maiden contest in the BJP-ruled Shimla Municipal Corporation, slated in May-end.