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Opinion | Will Kejriwal's arrest polarise AAP's votes in Lok Sabha elections

Written by  Annesha Barua -- March 23rd 2024 06:26 PM
Opinion | Will Kejriwal's arrest polarise AAP's votes in Lok Sabha elections

Opinion | Will Kejriwal's arrest polarise AAP's votes in Lok Sabha elections

PTC News Desk: After persistent claims by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) regarding the potential arrest of its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, the forewarned eventuality transpired on March 21. In a late-night development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) took Kejriwal into custody over his purported involvement in the Delhi liquor scam. Kejriwal's apprehension marks a notable milestone, possibly making him the first chief minister to be arrested while holding office, following in the footsteps of Jharkhand's Hemant Soren.

Coincidentally, both leaders faced the consequences of disregarding the ninth summons issued by the central agency. Kejriwal's arrest prompted the AAP to seek an urgent hearing from the Supreme Court, a plea that was swiftly dismissed. Subsequently, the party retracted its petition and intends to pursue legal recourse through a trial court. Nevertheless, navigating through the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, poses considerable challenges in obtaining reprieve from the judiciary.

Delhi liquor scam

AAP faces major setback: Kejriwal's arrest raises questions and concerns

The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has dealt a significant blow to the political landscape. As the former Delhi Chief Minister finds himself in the clutches of law enforcement over his alleged involvement in the Delhi liquor scam, AAP confronts a pivotal moment fraught with legal, political, and ethical ramifications.

For AAP, this latest development underscores a troubling irony. A party that emerged from a crusade against corruption now grapples with the arrest of its top leadership in corruption cases. The ongoing saga, viewed through multiple lenses, has ignited a fierce debate surrounding the principles of justice, political vendetta, and electoral dynamics.

Is AAP poised for gains in Punjab?

Punjab emerges as a crucial battleground where potential sympathy for Arvind Kejriwal could significantly influence electoral outcomes. With 13 parliamentary seats at stake, Punjab presents a unique landscape where the BJP's influence is limited due to a sparse urban Hindu base.

The electoral dynamics in Punjab currently revolve around a fierce contest between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress. Despite being allies under the INDIA bloc in other states like Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, and Haryana, AAP and Congress find themselves in direct competition in Punjab. The scenario becomes increasingly intriguing as the specter of sympathy for Kejriwal looms over the electoral landscape.

In an ironic turn of events, any gains for AAP in Punjab could potentially threaten the Congress, which secured eight constituencies in the 2019 elections. A sweeping victory for AAP, reminiscent of its landslide performance in the 2022 state elections where it clinched 92 out of 117 Assembly seats, could translate into a dent in the Congress's electoral prospects in Punjab. This outcome carries implications not only for the Congress's standing in the state but also for its overall tally on the national stage.

Kejriwal’s incarceration disrupts AAP's election campaign

The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, the prominent face of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has thrown the party's election campaign for the Lok Sabha into disarray. With Kejriwal behind bars and the governance of Delhi shrouded in uncertainty, AAP grapples with a leadership vacuum and strategic challenges in navigating the electoral landscape without its star campaigner and chief strategist.

Throughout its history, AAP's decision-making has been centralised around Kejriwal, who has been synonymous with the party since its inception. As the driving force behind the party's ideology and policies, Kejriwal's absence poses a significant setback, particularly during election campaigns where he traditionally played a pivotal role as the primary campaigner.

The onus now falls on the second tier of leadership, including Gopal Rai, Atishi, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, and Rajya Sabha MPs Sandeep Pathak and Raghav Chadha, to chart the course of the election campaign while concurrently addressing governance issues in Delhi.

AAP's election strategy is expected to pivot around Kejriwal's arrest, with party leaders condemning it as an assault on democracy akin to an "undeclared emergency-like situation." In response, AAP workers staged nationwide protests, decrying what they perceive as a concerted effort by the BJP to suppress opposition voices by incarcerating their leaders.

Gopal Rai, AAP's Delhi convener, emphasised that Kejriwal remains the face of the party and its campaign, leveraging the groundswell of sympathy following his arrest. With Delhi and Punjab scheduled for polls in the coming months, Rai stressed the importance of strategic planning and mobilising support through alliances like the INDIA bloc.

Rai announced plans for pan-India protests against Kejriwal's arrest and hinted at a collaborative effort with alliance members to mount a unified response. Additionally, AAP is set to rally its elected representatives and party functionaries to pledge their commitment to safeguard democracy in the face of what they perceive as authoritarian tactics by the ruling party.

Also Read: Arvind Kejriwal arrested: Former Chief Ministers who have been jailed till date

Also Read: India strongly objects to Germany's interference in the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal

The repercussions of Kejriwal's arrest reverberate across various dimensions, prompting critical questions that demand answers:

1. Leadership Dilemma: With Kejriwal behind bars, the question arises: who will lead AAP? Despite being in custody, Kejriwal's eligibility to continue as Chief Minister remains legally intact, albeit without a portfolio. Yet, ethical considerations cast doubt on the propriety of his tenure. Additionally, the potential intervention of the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) looms large, raising uncertainties about the governance framework.

2. Electoral Sympathy: Will Kejriwal's arrest evoke sympathy for AAP? The saga has galvanised AAP's core supporters but poses challenges beyond its stronghold states. As AAP eyes national expansion, the tarnishing of its anti-corruption image may undermine its electoral prospects, especially among swing voters.

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3. Impact on Elections: How will Kejriwal's arrest influence electoral outcomes? The timing of the arrest, amid impending state and national polls, injects volatility into the political landscape. Delhi's unique voting patterns, coupled with anti-incumbency sentiments, add complexity to AAP's electoral calculus.

4. Opposition Unity: Can Kejriwal's arrest unite the opposition? The arrest has rallied opposition forces, amplifying voices against perceived authoritarianism and electoral malpractice. It presents an opportunity for opposition alliances to coalesce and challenge the ruling dispensation.

5. Backlash Against BJP: Will the arrest backlash against the BJP? The BJP's dominance faces scrutiny as opposition forces rally against alleged high-handedness. Overconfidence could prove detrimental, mobilising voters seeking a robust opposition.

6. Campaign Leadership: Who will spearhead AAP's campaign? With Kejriwal sidelined, AAP grapples with leadership vacuum. Bhagwant Mann, Atishi, and Saurav Bhardwaj emerge as potential torchbearers, tasked with navigating AAP's electoral fortunes.

7. Future of AAP: Is this the end of the road for AAP? The party's meteoric rise faces existential challenges. As it confronts legal and political headwinds, AAP's trajectory hangs in the balance, signaling a pivotal juncture in its evolution.

Amidst legal battles and political maneuvering, the fallout from Kejriwal's arrest will reverberate far and wide, shaping the contours of Indian politics in the days to come.

Also Read: Kejriwal's arrest: Delhi Police stops Atishi's vehicle; AAP's bold response to Modi, 'shoot us'

Also Read: Delhi Excise Policy case: AAP uses liquor profits for Goa, Punjab polls



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