“IN DELHI WE WANTED TO MAKE IT AAP VS CONGRESS.NOW WE WANT TO MAKE IT AAP VS BJP”

Senior leader of AAP and its national spokesperson Yogendra Yadav has gone from predicting poll outcomes to participating in one as a candidate. The psephologist-turned-politician hasn’t lost any of his glibness while dodging crucial questions, or even resorting to contradictions when the heat is turned on him

Sadiq Naqvi & Souzeina S Mushtaq Mewat 

You have been a psephologist. What is your reading of the Parliamentary elections, independent of your relationship with the Aam Aadmi Party?

Much before I joined AAP, I had said goodbye to the business of election forecasting. I had done my stint, was happy and relieved and had no intention of going back. As I keep saying in Hindi, ‘Pehle bhaviysha batata tha, ab bhavishya banata hoon’. I find this more enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. Psephology, or electoral forecasting, doesn’t excite me anymore.

 

You have been campaigning in Haryana for a long time. What is the response so far? There are people who still have no idea about the party, especially women...

That is a fair assessment, especially here in Mewat. Do bear in mind that we are in one of the least literate regions of the country, especially among women. The Sachar Committee report established that the most disadvantaged Muslim-dominated area in terms of literacy is not Bihar, it’s Mewat. Haryana has been relatively strong for  AAP right from the Anna days. During the Delhi assembly elections, we had more volunteers from Haryana than from any other place in the country. Established political parties may not have organizational depth, but they have a strong patronage network that is widespread. They have lots of resources too. Our party has none. The challenge for us is to make a breakthrough. Once we become the viable political player, then the coming Assembly election is where our real challenge lies.

 

Don’t you think going straight into elections without any organization on the ground was a bad move?

Politics is one of those things where you cannot have gradual ascendance. Post-Delhi elections, there was a lot of energy lying intact and the dilemma was whether to say this is not enough, wait for five years, and trust that the hope we had would actually stay and grow, or fear that it would be squandered away. We decided we wanted to make the most of the given opportunity, not just in Delhi or Haryana but all across the country. The best time to judge all this is probably 20 years from now, to see if it was an error of judgement or not. But I think the real question is counterfactual. How would we have done if we had not taken up the opportunity after the Delhi elections? Judging that is hard.

 

But the support you got in the elections is waning fast, at least that’s what the surveys are saying. One such survey said the support has come down from 52 per cent to 34 per cent...

One error that many surveys make is to compare Vidhan Sabha election support to Lok Sabha election support. Parties like the Congress and the BJP do a little better in the Lok Sabha elections. I feel we are still doing very well in Delhi. I can see that there is a plateau, if not a decline, in our popularity. I would say there is equilibrium in where we are placed now; it’s substantially higher than where we were just before the Delhi elections. 

 

You constantly allude to the Modi wave in your address when you say Modi ka rath chal raha hai...

No, I don’t use the word ‘wave’. ‘Rath chal raha hai’ doesn’t mean wave. Rather, it means there is a clear move to make Modi the prime minister of the country, backed by some of the most powerful interests in the country. It is backed by big capital, by significant sections of the media. This is never highlighted. Fortunately, the fate of the country is not decided by the media and big capital. It is still decided by the people. There is a lot of talk about the Modi wave. If I was in my earlier avatar, I would have seen the evidence. It exists but I don’t have any professional data with me so I would not be able to either confirm or deny this. But when I speak to people, I don’t see that hard resolve to support him. There are of course many diehard Modi fans you come across, but you get diehard Chautala fans too. 

 

Why has the AAP only lately started targetting Modi?

AAP started focusing on Modi after the Delhi elections, but people like me have been speaking about this individually long before even joining the party. As a leader of AAP, I have said a hundred times that Modi is opposed to the very idea of India.

As our political strategy for the Delhi elections, we decided to go for an all-out attack on the Congress, which was then epitomized by Sheila Dikshit. You would recall a lot of people then said we are the B-team of the BJP. But Arvind is quite unwavering in his focus. He said, let them say whatever they want; we will do what we have to do. The Congress at that time was the symbol of power. Our focus on the Delhi government actually delayed our entry into national politics. Why focus on Modi now? Because you can’t possibly kick the Congress, which is dead and gone. I was joking about this in a public meeting, but that joke has come true. No one wants to be a Congress candidate right now. So, as a political strategy, it would be foolish to attack a party that is not even contesting elections seriously. In Delhi we wanted to make it AAP vs Congress. Now we want it to be AAP vs BJP.

 

Does the AAP want to emerge as an alternative if the Congress is decimated?

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2014