AAP support base shifts from middle class to underprevileged

NEW DELHI: Karan Sinha, an IT pro, was at Jantar Mantar on August 3, 2012, when it all happened. "Thousands of supporters of the anti-corruption movement woke up to the reality that they were now a political party," said the 45 year old sitting in his twobedroom rented apartment in Delhi's posh Greater Kailash. "I, for one, was in favour of the decision."

Life came a full circle for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) exactly two years later when it went back to its birthplace this month to mobilise public opinion about fresh elections in the Capital. Sinha chose to skip the event. "I do not relate to their political rhetoric anymore," he added.

AAP's rally on August 3 was a success with thousands pouring in at Jantar Mantar to endorse the party. But Sinha's absence was representative of a significant change in its supporter base. The rainbow coalition that brought the AAP to power in Delhi had more or less consolidated into one colour -- the downtrodden.

"The largest chunk of our supporters now come from the underprivileged class. A public meeting held near a JJ colony inevitably elicits a good response these days. But I am yet to see similar enthusiasm about AAP among the educated middleclass and the elite," a party MLA of an urban constituency told ET on the condition of anonymity.

So while on one hand, the shift in the social profile of supporters has created strong opportunities for AAP to win rural seats such as Sultanpur — which it lost by just 1,100 votes in the assembly election — in case of a reelection, it has, on the other, left many party MLAs representing urban seats feeling nervous.

The early sign of this disillusionment surfaced with AAP MLA Somnath Bharti's midnight raid in Khirki extension against a 'prostitution racket' and the spectacle of the then CM Arvind Kejriwal sitting on a dharna against the Centre. The decision to resign from government did not sit well with the middle class. "They couldn't make the transition from agitation to governance. I was quite angry when they took the obstinate stand of not sending the Jan Lokpal bill to the L-G first and quit power," said Sinha.

During the LS elections, AAP lost all of the 14 urban seats it had won during the assembly elections. The party leadership has an interesting take on the middle class' indifference. "The middle class believes it has ushered in the change it was striving for by electing Modi. But there have been no difference in corruption levels. No one knows this better than the underprivileged who continue to bribe government officers and the police. The rich and professionals do not have to face such problems on a daily basis," said a member of AAP's advisory committee.

So are they now changing their political rhetoric to echo the sentiments of the poor more than others? AAP's opposition to the ban on e-rickshaws and its support for the anti-CSAT agitation by students could be viewed as an attempt in this direction, although the party leadership vehemently denies resorting to appeasement.

"Right now AAP is focusing on elections which is why you see the party echoing sentiments of the poor because that is where most of the problems are and that's where most of the votes are. But AAP needs to decide whether it wants to grow only electorally or also politically. If it wants to be a different party then it needs a different set of issues and constituencies. Else, it will not be too different from the Congress and BJP," said political commentator Shiv Vishwanathan. more  

As haji, appreciate your analysis of shift in AAP's focus. The main plank that AAP came into existence was cleansing the nation of corrupt system. That continues to be the same. While corruption impacts all strata of society, less privileged are naturally more impacted. That would probably explain what you have brought out in your analysis. Perceptions & and priorities of different strata are bound to be different. The common minimum denominator is that corruption is eating into the limited resources of the nation. It is increasing crony capitalism and benefits of growth are being hogged by the affluent class. Common people with limited resources, are finding day to day management of household, extremely difficult. This should be appreciated by all right minded citizens and they should pool in their efforts to achieve the goals of clean governance. Individual opinions will keep changing from time to time, depending upon personal priorities. That should not decide our chosen path, as long as we are convinced of the correctness of approach broadly.
Mistakes will happen as those participating in the movement, like us, are humans who are bound to err. Mistakes or errors of judgement of individuals does not take away the need of cleansing the society of all evils that have crept into our systems. more  
Winning back the middle classes is very important for AAP. But this may take sometime and an assurance, to those classes, by persistent conduct that the party will refrain from doing things that upset the middle classes. The middle classes are also adversely affected by price rise, water shortage & electricity prices etc. They will soon realize that on these vital questions the BJP will not deliver adequately, but AAP will. Once that happens AAP will thump the Delhi elections. Then good governance needs to follow to consolidate the gains. more  
"The largest chunk of our supporters now come from the underprivileged class. A public meeting held near a JJ colony inevitably elicits a good response these days. But I am yet to see similar enthusiasm about AAP among the educated middleclass and the elite," a party MLA of an urban constituency told ET on the condition of anonymity".

"The party leadership has an interesting take on the middle class' indifference. "The middle class believes it has ushered in the change it was striving for by electing Modi."

This is a sad and disheartening commentary on AAP/AK. My good friend, an IIT alumnus left AAP. Some others too. I am not 100% sure of myself.

Without middle class, AAP is doomed. If they want to be a party of the underpriviledged, then what's wrong with BSP/SP? Will they send to Assembly/Parliament such quality persons?

I'll wait and watch. more  
This is true. It reflects in our circle also. AAP should put in all efforts to win Delhi middle class back. more  
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