Saturday 15 February 2020

Should AAP fight elections outside Delhi?

Caught up in the euphoria of its victory in Delhi, AAP has decided to fight local elections across the country if news reports are to be believed. Gopal Rai, a senior leader has made an announcement in as many words.
In Navi Mumbai, where I live, elections to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation will be held on April 10. Even before the Delhi elections AAP announced that they will contest all seats to the NMMC. I will analyse the Gopal Rai announcement by exploring if AAP should contest the elections to NMMC.
First the facts. There are 111 wards that make up the NMMC. 56 seats are reserved for women, 55 are open. So, first things first, AAP needs 111 candidates to fight elections.
Next, it is pertinent to know that there are some 800 booths. Assuming that the party needs to have atleast 1 volunteer per booth, they need 800 booth managers.
What does AAP do to have a reasonable shot at victory? The area has some 1.2 million voters. The biggest ward has 12000 voters, the smallest 8000. The turnout percentage is about 50. Which means that an average of 5000 votes will be cast in each ward. If the unity of the Maha Aghadi holds , there will be two formations pitted against each other. On one side will be the Sena - NCP - Congress combine against the BJP. Assuming a close to even split of votes between the two sides, a candidate of AAP can win with just 2000 votes in a ward. If the Aghadi unity does not hold as I suspect, polling even 1500 votes can get AAP a victory in a ward.
The question then is what will help AP get these votes? Why will 1500 votes go AAP way? Even for the best product in the world with the best marketing strategy, distribution holds the key. AAP's message about good governance will certainly resonate with the local population. But they still need to get 2000 voter to the booths to vote for them. The BJP had 1.10 lakh personnel working on the ground in Delhi backed by a high decibel campaign, yet they lost. The Shiv Sena has over 5000 workers on the ground I am told and have been around for ages. The NCP has lost its force to the BJP but even so, they have over 3000 people on the ground. The Congress has less than 1000.
In sharp contrast, by all accounts AAP has fewer than 100. If that is correct, it would mean that they don't even have enough candidates to field in all the 111 booths, what to speak of having enough booth managers. I am sure that this number will increase if they started a mobilisation drive. But will that get them the numbers they need to put up a decent fight in the elections? One metric my friends in political parties work with is to have 1 mobiliser per 100 votes which can go down to 1 mobiliser for 500 votes if the party is well established locally and is seen a viable alternative.
The damage to AAP will be immeasurable if they lose the elections badly. Imagine losing your deposit in an election where only 2000 votes are required to win. When AAP won the first time in Delhi, they made the huge mistake of thinking it is easy. Arvind Kejriwal allowed his state units to field candidates with catastrophic consequences. The do gooders and well meaning folks in the party with no political sense set the party back by a few years and it is they who were the first to criticise the leadership when the elections did not yield the desired outcome.
I would have though that the lessons from those days have been learned. But I was shocked when AAP fielded candidates in the last Maharashtra assembly elections and cut a sorry figure. I was told that the decision to fight the elections was taken to keep the local cadre motivated. I can think of a hundred other ways of keeping the cadre motivated without having to suffer the ignominy of the defeat inflicted on AAP.
The message of AAP is too powerful to be squandered lightly. But that is exactly what could happen if a decision is taken to fight elections without a strong local organisation. I hope Arvind Kejriwal is listening.

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