EMBOLDENED by its unexpectedly good performance in the 2013 Assembly election in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contested almost all the parliamentary seats in the country in the 2014 general election. The outcome was a disaster for the party. Now, however, after landslide victories in two consecutive Assembly elections in the national capital, the AAP’s national ambitions have once again come to the fore. The party launched a nationwide campaign for rashtranirman (state-building) on February 11, immediately after the Delhi election results were announced.
“We are asking people nationally to endorse the AAP brand of politics: kaam ki rajniti . We have issued a number on which people can give a missed call and become part of this nationwide movement of rashtranirmaan . In the first 12 hours itself, we have received five lakh calls from all over India,” said Jasmine Shah, vice chairman of the Delhi Dialogue Commission, a think tank of the Delhi government that advises it on finding sustainable, people-centric solutions to Delhi’s critical development challenges. In a conversation with Frontline , Jasmine Shah spoke on critical challenges facing the party now and also during the campaigning. Excerpts:
Had you expected the sort of vitiated communal campaign unleashed by the BJP in this election?
No, it was a complete surprise. The BJP has fought elections against us in the past as well, but never before was such a campaign seen. What was more surprising was that top leaders, Union Ministers, too, were saying such things. If ordinary party workers said these things, one still would not have minded, but imagine even top leaders indulging in this sort of poisonous talk.
How did you avoid falling into their trap? Your campaign never deviated from your work-centric agenda.
[Through] sheer discipline. We told our workers categorically that our work in the last five years and the guarantees for the next five years were all they needed to speak on. Our workers on the field and our social media team had been given clear instructions, and they stuck to them. See, we had a report card which was based on actual work done, so it was easy for all of us to not get distracted by that sort of narrative. Our narrative was plain and simple—work done—but they had to create their narrative because they had nothing to talk about. I would not say they didn’t talk about our work: jhuggi s, schools, etc. But their narrative was based on falsehood and it didn’t stick. So they were forced to create this sort of narrative by force because nothing else was working for them.
Do you think your work-centric agenda can become a template for other State elections?
Why not? Even though it was only people in Delhi who voted, the rest of the country was definitely watching a government seek votes in the name of work actually performed, and the outcome is there for everyone to see. Frankly speaking, people across India are watching with interest because people actually want to elect governments that work for their welfare and improve their quality of life. Nobody wants this sort of divisive, hate-spewing narrative which others are forced to construct because they have no other narrative with which to approach the people.
The missed call campaign we started yesterday for rashtranirman has already received five lakh calls in the last 12 hours.
How do you plan to take this rashtranirman campaign forward?
That we will decide, but the fact that our agenda for rashtranirman , based on work done, has appealed to people is encouraging, and it could make other parties follow suit.
What is your road map for the future?
Ours is a vote for continuity, so whatever we have started we will continue to complete and do whatever is required to make people’s lives better. We are committed to pursuing whatever we have promised in our guarantee card.