NEW DELHI: The exit of Manish Sisodia from the Aam Aadmi Party’s(AAP) scheme of things, while making a negative impact on its preparations for the forthcoming Assembly elections, is likely to come as a blessing in disguise for other leaders and give them an opportunity to show their mettle as far as AAP’s pan-India outreach is concerned.
Sisodia, who is the second number in the party’s hierarchy after party chief and Delhi Chief Minister ArvindKejriwal and called the back-bone of AAP due to the trust that Kejriwal has on him, is likely to be out of active politics for a relatively long time following his arrest in the liquor scam by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
With the likes of other “top’ faces like Atishi Marlena and Sanjay Singh missing out on one of the three traits—experience, trust or expertise—that Kejriwal looks for, and Raghav Chadda busy in managing Punjab, party Rajya Sabha MP and the 43-year-old National General Secretary (Organization) Sandeep Pathak is likely to handle the party’s larger plans till Sisodia becomes available.
Pathak, who was the in-charge of Gujarat where the party failed to stop the BJP from coming to power in the last year held Assembly election, is right now, among other things, preparing the party’s plans for the May 2024 polls while operating from a government bungalow in Delhi where a dedicated team is assisting him.
As per the claims made by Delhi BJP leaders, much of the alleged money from the Delhi liquor scam was utilized by the AAP in the Punjab and Gujarat polls. Incidentally, Pathak is the AAP in-charge of Gujarat and co-incharge of Punjab.
According to AAP party leaders, its rise at national politics was “inevitable” while claiming that it was going to touch the figure of atleast 10-15 Lok Sabha seats in the May 2024 polls. In the 2014 polls, it had won four seats, but managed to retain only one of them in the 2019 polls in which it got a total of 27.16 lakh votes across India that was 0.44% of the total votes polled.
For this seemingly difficult goal to turn into a reality, the AAP will have to have a strong organization that can reach out to the voters much before the general election kicks in and convince them they are a credible option to take on the ruling BJP. For this, Kejriwal is banking on Pathak and his ability to identify individuals who can sincerely work on the ground rather than stay in Delhi.
The Mungeli (Chhattisgarh) born Pathak, who carries with himself rich professional and educational experience, something that used to be one of the main selling points of AAP to the voters when it was born post the Anna protests and the “India Against Corruption” movement, has risen swiftly in the party ranks while working silently in the backgound.
In the Punjab Assembly elections, while Chadda was at the forefront, Pathak was among the many other functionaries who did the “heavy-lifting”. While not many were aware of his political credentials outside the party, he, from the start, has been regarded by his party colleagues as someone who has the ability to closely work with Kejriwal on the “bigger” issues.
While the external challenges to the AAP are well accounted for, not much is talked and written about the internal differences of opinions between its top leaders due to political ambitions that has been taking place for the last one year. In some of the recent elections, its own party leaders were at the forefront to sabotage the electoral chances of their own party members. In this background, it will be interesting to see how Kejriwal manages the clash of aspirations that are likely to arise in the coming months.