With party’s star campaigner Kejriwal behind bars, will AAP see changes in its poll strategy?

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Sanjay Singh, Gopal Rai, Shelly Oberoi, Dr. Sandeep Pathak and others during a day-long mass fast to protest against the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister and the party’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal, in New Delhi, Sunday, April 7, 2024.(IANS/Wasim Sarvar)

Shekhar Singh

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) With the Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s plea challenging his arrest by the ED and the trial court order remanding him to the agency’s custody in connection with the excise policy case, the lack of top-tier leadership is prompting the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to refocus on recalibrating its election strategy ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

The AAP has so far launched two election campaigns.

The party kick-started its Lok Sabha poll campaign on March 8 from Delhi by raising the slogan ‘Sansad Mein Bhi Kejriwal, Tabhee Dilli Hogee Aur Khushahaal’ (Delhi will prosper with Kejriwal in the Parliament).

The second campaign launched on Monday revolves around the slogan ‘Jail Ka Jawab Vote Se’, a two-pronged initiative intended to rally support against Kejriwal’s arrest and to capitalise on the sympathy factor seeking the AAP supremo’s release.

The AAP is now banking on a mix of these factors, including sympathy votes, leveraging the narrative that Kejriwal’s arrest was orchestrated to stifle his electioneering strategy.

Moreover, the party is also accusing the ED and the BJP of hatching a conspiracy to impede Kejriwal’s campaign in the election season, further complicating the political landscape in the national capital.

“Both the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are colluding to impede Kejriwal’s election campaign. His arrest was strategically timed to align with the Model Code of Conduct, and was deliberately orchestrated to sabotage the AAP’s poll prospects,” said a party leader.

Meanwhile, amid these tumultuous developments, the Supreme Court recently granted bail to senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh, who was also embroiled in the liquor policy case.

The AAP Rajya Sabha MP’s release has surely lifted the morale of the party with plans to bolster the campaign by involving Kejriwal’s wife, Sunita Kejriwal, and Singh, among others.

According to sources within the party, following the INDIA bloc’s rally at the Ramleela Maidan recently, there is a shift in focus towards the campaign, with Sunita Kejriwal expected to play a more active role in conveying the messages to the voters, while Singh is likely to take charge of the campaign in Delhi and other states where the party has fielded its candidates.

Since March 21, Kejriwal has remained in judicial custody, initially under the ED’s jurisdiction before being sent to the Tihar Jail. His arrest has upended political equations, both locally and nationally, particularly impacting the AAP’s campaign efforts.

On the contrary, the BJP leaders in Delhi do not feel that Kejriwal’s arrest will benefit the AAP in the Lok Sabha elections in any manner. Instead, they view it as a pivotal moment in AAP’s political trajectory.

In response to AAP’s campaign, the BJP workers have mobilised to engage in grassroots outreach, elucidating their party’s developmental initiatives and dispelling the doubts surrounding the alleged liquor policy scam.

“We are fully aware that the AAP might seek to garner sympathy votes on the Kejriwal issue, but we are also ready to address it,” a BJP leader said.

Sources in the BJP said that the party leaders have received clear instructions to refrain from making any “derogatory or contentious” remarks against AAP leaders. Instead, they have been advised to highlight the “mismanagement and corruption” of the AAP administrations in Delhi and Punjab.

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