The Aam Aadmi Party, fresh from its success in Punjab, is working to make inroads into Jammu and Kashmir ahead of possible elections later this year.
Only a decade-old in competitive politics, the AAP is attracting a large number of political workers and youth in Jammu region on the back of its Punjab performance.
In Udhampur, it was a grand reception for ex-MLA Balwant Singh Mankotia, who quit the J&K Panthers party, to join the AAP. Mr Singh praised the AAP’s Delhi model and promised to replicate it in Jammu and Kashmir.
“People of J&K want Delhi model and Kejriwal model – and therefore, we see this wave for change. I was at AAP office in Delhi – someone had written a slogan – Kejriwal mera hero, because my power bill is zero,” said Balwant Singh Mankotia.
Historically, Punjab has had a huge cultural and social influence on Jammu. Soon after the AAP’s recent Punjab victory, Jammu which is a bastion of BJP, is abuzz with new political slogans. The AAP is using both nationalism and development to challenge BJP in the region.
“Our manifesto is on the issues of youth, education, health, power and water. People are attracted to AAP because of our agenda on these things. In coming days, there will be groundswell of support which will translate into votes for change,” said Om Prakash Khajuria, AAP J&K convenor.
J&K is under direct central rule since June 2018 – Political activities have largely been subdued since August 2019 when J&K was stripped off its statehood and special status.
For last one week, AAP is putting out series of pictures of its new entrants into the party fold. Many a District development Council and Panchayat members have joined the party.
In Doda and Ramban districts, it’s Congress and National Conference whose workers are joining AAP, while in the plains of Jammu, the party is trying to emerge as main challenger to the BJP.
The BJP is confident that AAP’s entry into J&K will not make any difference to their vote bank and Aam Admi Party luring people with promises of freebies will only destroy the economy.
“The start up people who are joining AAP are all those rolling stones who are gathering no mark anywhere. When it comes to hardcore vote bank and hardcore people of BJP, not a single person has left because they know future of India is with BJP ” said Abhijeet Jasrotia, BJP spokesman, J&K .
Given the decline of Congress in Jammu, the AAP is hoping to fill in the vacuum and become the main challenger to the BJP in the region.