The numbers from Gujarat civic polls are a clear indication that Arvind Kejriwal's Delhi model has found resonance in BJP bastion Gujarat. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not only managed to seriously dent the saffron party's performance, but it has also emerged as a key factor in Congress's almost decimation. As per current trends, the party is set to walk away with a significant number of seats.
AAP's Gujarat in-charge Matiala MLA Gulab Singh, who is being touted as the man behind AAP's reemergence as a viable option in urban centres, spoke to CNN News18 on what the victory means for the party.
You are AAP in-charge of Gujarat. How are you looking at the results?
Gulab Singh: For many years, AAP and its workers have been working hard on the ground. And as per the results today, the people of Gujarat have reposted their faith in the Aam Aadmi Party and we have opened our account with a big number. Especially in Surat, the AAP is about to occupy the space of the Opposition. This is a very big win for us. And in many seats, AAP is second while Congress is nowhere.
In terms of vote share too, AAP has done well. I am looking at the 2022 elections. I feel, the AAP has emerged as a strong ray of hope for the people of Gujarat and we will do very well in the forthcoming days. We are ahead in 24 seats. The results have been quite impressive.
What is the reason behind the AAP's impressive performance?
Gulab Singh: One of the biggest reasons is that AAP members took the work that has been achieved in Delhi in the past five-six years to the people, and the people agreed that if in Delhi, education (in government schools) is good, they, too, are entitled to the same; if in Delhi, Mohalla clinics can be built, they can be built in Gujarat also; if in Delhi, women can travel in buses without paying a single rupee, the same can happen in Gujarat also; if cheap and free electricity is available to the people of Delhi, it can be available in Gujarat also. Who will not want this - free electricity, cheap electricity. These issues resonated with the people and that is why the AAP has won an impressive percentage of votes also.
The second reason is the utter failure of the Congress party. For the past 20-25 years, the Congress party ensured that the BJP won in one-sided elections, so behind the veil, the Congress and the BJP were one party and it is the AAP that has broken this nexus, took this issue to the people and won the trust of the people.
What are your future plans for the state?
Gulab Singh: From now onwards, we will campaign hard for the 2022 Assembly elections. We will raise local issues like high fees in private schools. Currently, there are no checks and balances on the rising fees in private schools. They are being hiked regulalry and polticians themselves, including BJP's people, are involved. We will raise this issue.
You must have seen that Congress is not raising the voice of the opposition either in the state assembly or on the roads. In the coming days, you will see the AAP fight for the rights of people. We will face bullets, we will be jailed, but come what may, we will raise the real issues of the people of Gujarat.
You have been AAP's Gujarat in-charge for many years. Once, while you were in Gujarat, you were also arrested. How tough was it for you personally?
Gulab Singh: Of course, I remember the Delhi police had arrested me in great haste on October 16, 2016, and had brought me here. In that case also, the honourable high court has given its verdict in my favour. There was an attempt to harass me in a big way, to mentally torture me. However, I accept that all AAP workers and the people of Gujarat would have understood this, and thought about this. Jo ghamand hai, woh ravan ka bhi nahi rehta and the AAP scored a big win. Somewhere, in all this, there is a lesson for the BJP - that if it contiues to use the apparatus of the government and indulge in dictatorship, the people know how to answer. I am very happy that the door for the AAP has opened in Surat, the very place from where I was arrested.
What about the major faces in the local leadership?
Gulab Singh: Definitely, Gopal Italia who is our state chief has worked very hard. His home town is Surat. Others include Kamal Gartia, Manoj Sorathia, who is the sangathan mantri for Surat South zone. He has demonstrated exemplary leadership in the course of this election. He has delivered a big message that if we work hard, we can get good results. Almost all our sangathan mantris have performed well. In Rajkot, we are ahead in 13 seats, Congress is nowhere to be seen. Dima Bhai Choudhury also worked day and night, Kishore bhai is one of our founder members. All have worked very hard and it is because of them that the people of Gujarat have voted for the AAP in such an impressive manner.
So, what worked - Kejriwal's Delhi model of development or the failure of the Congress?
Gulab Singh: You have to understand both issues. There was a sense of despair and anxiety among the people. If you notice, the MLAs (Congress MLAs) were bought over and people were not happy about that. Recently, you must have seen that many of their MLAs in Gujarat jumped to the BJP. And this has happened in various places in the country. People did not have any hope from the Congress - that is the no 1 factor. And the second reason is that the Delhi government's work in the field of health and education is being talked about in each village, town and district clusters. I have visited hundreds of villages. The AAP benefited tremendously from this and people want that kind of work to be replicated in Gujarat.