Bypoll: Litmus test for AAP

After a series of political and electoral reverses, a litmus test awaits Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP this Wednesday when Bawana Assembly seat goes to bypolls.

It will be a prestige battle for Kejriwal as the bypoll was necessitated after AAP MLA Ved Prakash quit the Assembly to join BJP in March this year.

A victory is very much needed for the AAP, as a reversal in fortunes would be a relief for the party battered in a bypoll and civic body elections in Delhi and Assembly polls in Punjab earlier this year.

BJP has fielded Prakash in the seat reserved for Scheduled Castes, while AAP is in the ring with Ramchandra. Congress, which is also looking for comeback, has fielded three-time MLA from Bawana Surendra Kumar.

The campaign has entered the frenetic last phase with all the eight candidates, including independents, trying to win over the voters. The counting of votes will be on August 28.

The BJP is riding high on its electoral victory in civic polls and Rajouri Garden bypoll and expects that majority of the 2.94 lakh voters would repose their faith in the saffron party and “teach Arvind Kejriwal a lesson”, as Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan said during a campaign meeting last week.

For AAP, the rebellion by one of its MLA Kapil Mishra and public displeasure expressed by senior leader Kumar Vishwas are still fresh in public memory.

The Kejriwal-led party will also have to overcome the electoral setbacks it received in the recent Rajouri Garden bypoll where its candidate lost his deposit in a sitting seat and the civic poll results and win back the confidence of people.

A section in the party believe that they have squandered its hard-earned political capital based on people-centric politics through bad strategy. Kejriwal appears to have tweaked his strategy after the drubbing and in the past four-five months have been concentrating on ground work. The party had instructed its MLAs to meet workers and common man regularly.

The polling in Bawana will also see the use of Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The AAP had raised doubts about EVMs in Assembly polls and had demanded that paper trail should be there. Bawana had witnessed polling of 61.14% and 61.83% in 2013 and 2015 Assembly polls respectively.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 21, 2017)

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