The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal has its task cut out in the upcoming municipal elections in Delhi.
The party failed to impress in the recent Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa despite having high hopes, especially in the northern state, and now it is bringing all the focus back to Delhi where it decimated both the BJP and the Congress in the 2015 Assembly elections.
That the AAP has taken things very seriously for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections scheduled for April 22 is evident from the fact that it has already announced its candidates and started door-to-door campaigning.
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In fact, the Swaraj India outfit floated by two expelled AAP leaders – Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav – will also be a player in the MCD polls. Though it is not expected to win anything big, it will certainly add to the noise.
Coming back to the AAP, the party has decided to field as many as 145 women candidates in these local elections.
From the seasoned Juhi Khan to Promila Gupta — an aide to Delhi women's commission chief Swati Maliwal — to student leader Swati Sachdeva, the AAP has focussed on the crucial constituency of women for the upcoming elections.
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Besides fielding women in reserved seats, the AAP has given tickets to women candidates in some general wards as well. Kejriwal's party has also pushed young candidates, aspiring to checkmate his opponents with two vital electoral weapons.
A commendable step, but is the AAP really pro-women?
However, even though the AAP deserves a pat on its back for thinking out-of-the-box to beat a powerful opponent like the BJP, which will go all-out to avenge its humiliating loss in the Delhi state polls of 2015 (the saffron party won just three of the 70 seats despite the Modi effect), one wonders whether the party is genuinely pro-women in its stance.
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In the past, AAP minister Somnath Bharti and MLAs like Prakash Jarwal, Dinesh Mohaniya, Ankit Lal and Kumar Vishwas have faced legal issues on charges of ill-treating women.
A former AAP MLA Sandeep Kumar was arrested last year on charges of rape while another MLA brought charges against his party's senior members, saying they were exploiting women in states like Delhi and Punjab.
There were also voices against the AAP leadership for not picking a single woman minister after the party romped home with a majority in the 2015 election.
So, with such an anti-women image, what made the AAP suddenly field an overwhelming number of women in the MCD polls?
Is AAP trying to beat the BJP in its own game?
One suspects the AAP is trying to take a leaf out of the BJP's playbook to best it in the electoral arena.
The BJP, despite having a patriarchal image (Manuwadis), has always backed women as election contestants or important office-holders. The saffron party has a number of women at the helm today, which has helped the party woo women voters successfully.
Besides the equality factor that women leaders at top positions have added to the party's appeal, the Modi government's thrust on schemes to help women on the ground has also made the BJP a favourite with the women electorate.
Reaching out to the youth has also been another effective ploy used by the BJP to cement its vote-bank.
Kejriwal, who imitates Modi even while opposing him, has devised the same strategy to repeat the 2015 election victory.
The AAP leadership desperately requires a shot in its arm in the upcoming elections if it wants to keep the dreaam of one day becoming a major political force alive.
And, Kejriwal is leaving no stone unturned to penetrate the voters' mindsets. But Delhi 2015 is long gone now.
Can Kejriwal really survive the Modi storm in the MCD polls? If not, he will have the excuse of faulty electronic voting machines ready.