In the backdrop of persistent claims against its MLAs and with an eye on the 2024 elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) held the first national meeting of its elected representatives and advocates from across the country at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in the national capital on Sunday.
Approximately 1,500 people from 20 states gathered, as told by AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, to “discuss the way ahead”. While a majority of them were from Delhi and Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, the chief minister of Punjab, was conspicuous by his absence in Delhi, although he joined the meeting via video-conferencing from Germany.
In Delhi, AAP’s Finance Minister Harpal Cheema shared the stage with Kejriwal, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, AAP Delhi in-charge Gopal Rai, National Secretary Pankaj Gupta and AAP RS MP Sanjay Singh. Kejriwal led the meeting, reiterating the commitment of the party to make ‘India No. 1’, a euphemism for the party’s national ambitions, defeat of the ‘Bharatiya Janata Party’s Operation Lotus’ by the AAP’s elected legislators and the need for the party to brave it out for the next few months until the Gujarat elections are over. Indeed, the party’s strong push in Gujarat generated a lot of interest, also with the party announcing on the same day that its Punjab MP Raghav Chadha has been appointed as Gujarat co-in-charge. AAP’s Delhi in-charge of Gujarat, MLA Gulab Singh Yadav, was present with Gujarat state president Gopal Italia and party leader Manoj Sorathiya.
With the leitmotif of two ‘models of development’ in the speeches of many leaders, the AAP is looking to turn the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and the 2024 General Elections into a ‘Modi vs Kejriwal’ battle.
Kejriwal said, “Today, 1,446 people’s representatives from 20 states have gathered, these are the seeds which have been planted by God. In Delhi and Punjab, these seeds have grown into trees that are giving shade and fruits to people. In Gujarat also, God has planted 27 seeds, which will blossom into trees. We are going to form the government in Gujarat.”
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) September 18, 2022
The AAP chief used an analogy from the epic Mahabharata to communicate his idea. “A 10-year-old AAP is taking on and defeating mighty adversaries just as Krishna felled many demons in childhood…The AAP, too, like Krishna ji, is felling big parties that indulge in dirty politics, we are felling unemployment, corruption and inflation.”
Pointing to the acquittal of AAP legislators and councilors in 135 of the 169 cases, Delhi Chief Minister also used the platform to defend his embattled deputy Sisodia, minister Satyendar Jain, who has been in jail for more than three months, and the recently jailed MLA Amanatullah Khan, reiterating that raids and searches have got no response. In fact, Kejriwal said had Jain been in any other country, he would have been awarded for his work of providing free health services, mohalla clinics and free electricity, instead of being sent to jail for three months.
Kejriwal went on to say that in Jain’s trial, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not been able to offer any proof, despite the judge asking for it in the past three hearings. “Now, the central government wants to change the judge.”