Has the emergence of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a political alternative after the Delhi assembly polls rattled mainstream political parties?
At the NCP’s two-day conclave, which began on Sunday to discuss the political situation and probable nominees in the 22 Lok Sabha constituencies contested by the party in 2009, senior leaders discussed the likely impact of AAP in Maharashtra’s electoral arena.
Incidentally, while former irrigation department official Vijay Pandhare, who acted as the whistle-blower in the irrigation scam, has joined AAP, its leaders like Anjali Damania have been aggressive in taking on the NCP over the issue. Sources said union heavy industries minister Praful Patel, who spoke at the conclave attended by elected representatives and senior office-bearers, claimed that AAP could have an impact in the state and affect any party. Patel is said to have pointed out that in Delhi, AAP had affected the fortunes of the Congress more that it hurt the BJP.
Home minister RR Patil is said to have claimed that AAP was a discussion point in the media and not a voting point in Maharashtra. Patil also stressed that secular votes must not be divided and sought early finalisation of seat-sharing with the Congress.
However, party supremo and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who reiterated that he would not contest the Lok Sabha polls but prefer a Rajya Sabha berth instead, pointed out that in the past, the mandate given by the people of Delhi had varied from that of the people of the rest of the country. “It is my experience of many years that results of Delhi polls vary from the mandate of national elections... hence, there is no need to worry too much about it,” said Pawar, seeking to allay fears. “In Delhi, Sheila Dixit had a very good image... but we saw what happened when there was an atmosphere for a change,” he added.