The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is putting in a lot of hard effort to do well in three states where the BJP is in power---either solely or in partnership. The point is simple: Go on attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the tallest leader in the country at the moment, so that we can also remain in the headlines and grow in our stature. Afterall, success nowadays is mostly determined by the degree of publicity one succeeds in attaining.
Those who fail to do so lose their way. For example---the Congress and Left Front, the two traditional powerhouses but have lost out in the race to remain in the positive focus of the media.
But it is also interesting to note that a party, which is ruthlessly ambitious in its plan to emerge on the national stage, is not putting enough focus on Uttar Pradesh---politically the most important state in the country. Is this an irony of sort? [Kejriwal visits Somnath Temple with family; media coverage banned]
Why AAP's focus is on Punjab, Gujarat & Goa: 5 reasons
The AAP's focus on three BJP-ruled states, i.e., Punjab, Gujarat and Goa is centred around a number of reasons that are narrow and region-specific.
First, the AAP is mainly challenging the Modi cult through its aggressive plan on these three states more than grow genuinely as a party. Its aim is more on attracting media coverage for every move it makes targetting Modi and his Co., there will be a reaction and repercussion and that will give one more day to live for a party with limited reach. [Kejriwal's G Mission 2017 in Goa & Gujarat]
Secondly, the AAP is trying to make up for its organisational weakness by focusing on the anti-incumbency sentiments in all these three states. The BJP is in power in Punjab (the government being led by the Shiromani Akali Dal) for a decade while in Gujarat, it is ruling for 21 years now.
In Goa, though the BJP is about to complete five years in government, but it already has generated enough anti-incumbency and the people of the state are eager to find a new alternative to the time-tested Congress and BJP. Be it the Patidaar problem in Gujarat or the Dalits in Punjab or corruption in Goa, the AAP could be the best alternative to look forward to.
Thirdly, the AAP is also willing to fill up the leadership vacuum in these three states. The exit of Modi from Gujarat and Parrikar from Goa and the ageing chief minister in Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab have created an opportunity for Kejriwal to offer a new alternative to the people of these states.
Fourthly, the AAP has identified these three states not just because elections are due there in some time but also because they are urbanised states that have been hit by the anti-incumbency. Being a party which is preferred mainly by the middle class, the AAP knows very well that this is the time to strike and topple the BJP---also a party with strong middle-class rooting.
Finally, all these three poll-bound states have a largely bipolar political system where the BJP or its ally has been doing better than the Congress. The AAP also senses its chances in this situation. Just like it had done in Delhi where it destroyed the bipolar system and pushed the Congress out of the scene, it feels the same can be done in Punjab, Goa and Gujarat. Even if it fails to win the election, a second position from nowhere will give Kejriwal the much-needed platform to launch his national dream. [Shift in Indian politics? BJP, AAP in; Congress, Left out]
When it comes to UP, none of these reasons exist and hence the AAP feels less excited.
None of these 5 reasons exist in UP
Modi wave not that strong now in UP
In UP, for instance, there is no established Modi cult like in Gujarat. The PM himself is also trying hard to ensure that the BJP repeats its 2014 performance and prove that the wave then was not a fluke. His party has not yet succeeded to come up with a credible face for the UP election, something which suggests that the BJP will have to do a lot more work to remain in the contention to win the throne of Lucknow next year.
AAP organisationally weak in UP
This reality invariably makes it less exciting for the AAP, which has no organisational strength to cover a huge state like UP and could fancy its chance if a Modi factor was dominant in UP like it was in 2014. Then, Kejriwal himself had contested against Modi in Varanasi---a constituency with which he had no relation---and though he lost, he conveyed the message that he is not afraid to take on even the strongest of the enemy.
UP has no leadership vacuum for the AAP to readily fill in
The AAP is also not giving UP much of a thought because there is no leadership vacuum in that state. The likes of Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are always tough customers to beat in their own den while the possibility of seeing a Priyanka or Rahul Gandhi entering the electoral ring is also there this time. Even a Varun Gandhi proves to be a popular leader in that state. The AAP, with no face of its own, finds it non-profitable to put into an effort in UP.
UP not as urbanised as Delhi, Goa or Gujarat
UP is also not as urbanised as Delhi, Goa or Gujarat and its politics is also determined by social complexities like caste and religion. That, again, is not the AAP's forte and it is bound to fall flat if it tries to master the social engineering which is seen in UP politics.
UP politics is not bipolar as it is Goa, Gujarat or Punjab
Moreover, the politics in UP is neither bipolar in nature and the parties that dominate states like Goa, Gujarat and Punjab---the BJP and Congress---are themselves not among the first two in this state. Hence, the plan of targeting the BJP by eating into the Congress's vote-share is not going to work in UP. In fact, that model is not going to help the AAP in any state where one or two regional parties are the dominant forces.
The AAP had tasted the bitter pill of contesting and losing difficult elections in UP during the last general poll. It has learnt its limited capacity in taking on the electoral challenge in UP. But the party leadership must also understand that to see its national ambition getting translated into the reality, it has to show its magic in UP---just like Modi had shown in 2014.
Minus UP, the AAP's prospects will only remain less.