While the Aam Aadmi Party's Lok Sabha election candidates in 2014, drawn largely from heads of NGOs funded by American spy agency CIA's philanthropic front Ford Foundation, had fared miserably and the party did not dare show a pan-Indian presence in 2019, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is nursing the high ambition once again. He launched the AAP's 2024 Lok Sabha election campaign at Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium with the "Make India Number 1" call.
Whether the AAP will once again look up to NGOs once again is not clear, but the leitmotif of the electoral promises of the party is predictable: Freebies! The Delhi chief minister repeated in his speech at the Talkatora Stadium the populist part of his Independence Day address, promising free but quality education and health services for 130 crore Indians, which he said would make the country "rich and developed".
Kejriwal today said that while employment for youth should be the topmost priority, respect, safety and equal opportunities for women and fair and remunerative prices for farmers would be the building blocks for India to be a developed nation, implying he will continue to be a socialist, distributing money collected from taxpayers to the entitlement-seeking lot.
"I will travel across the country and ensure the participation of people. We will build an alliance of 130 crore Indians," Kejriwal said.
Sources in the AAP said their national convenor will be the party's prime ministerial face of the party for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections although the highest decision-making body of the AAP, the political affairs committee, is yet to announce it formally.
Already, workers of the AAP, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha are sloganeering "AK for PM".
Asked whether Kejriwal would be the prime ministerial candidate of the party, AAP MLA Madan Lal said the Delhi chief minister had the confidence of the people and the party. "Log unko chaahte hain; un men hi ummeed dekhte hain (People want him; they see hope only in him).”
Dashing the hopes of other opposition parties for a grand alliance against the invincible-looking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal said the AAP did not have anything to do with any other party in this national mission of taking the country forward.
Kejriwal also shared a utopian idea of political unity, saying the INC and BJP, as well as patriots in the country, must join the "national mission".
In a politically correct lingo, Kejriwal said 75 years had been wasted in fights and the time had come to bury the hatchet and behave as a family. "Nafrat khatam, pyaar aur mohabbat ke saath rahenge, mutthi band kar ke rahenge, tabhi Bharat duniya ka number one desh ban sakta hai (Time to end hostilities and live together with love. Only if we stay united can India become the world’s number 1 country)," he said.
The party hopes it can make significant inroads into Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka among other states to reach a respectable nationwide tally in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Observing that its national performance has been in stark contrast to the party's successes in Delhi and Punjab assembly elections, the AAP is attempting to build one narrative — Make India Number 1 — to draw people.
In the 2014 general election, the AAP won four seats, all from Punjab. In the 2019 episode, the party won just one Lok Sabha seat, again from Punjab.
Currently, the party does not have any seats in the Lok Sabha while it has 10 in the Rajya Sabha.
Kejriwal had resigned as chief minister of Delhi in 2014 to take on Prime Minister Modi in Varanasi, a battle that he lost but stood at number 2.
In Delhi today, Kejriwal said though the country had gained a lot in 75 years of Independence, people were angry and questioning why many countries, which were much smaller than India and gained independence much later, had progressed better. He did not name such countries.
The chief minister argued that if the country’s affairs were left to these parties and their leaders, it would remain backward for another 75 years. Targeting nepotism and "crony capitalism" — an oxymoron because ideal capitalism has no government and hence no cronies — of the INC and the BJP, Kejriwal said some of these parties were concerned with their families while others were concerned about friends. "one indulges in corruption, the other strips the country of its resources," he alleged.
Recalling the mood during the hyped anti-corruption campaign of 2011, Kejriwal said India could lead the world only on the condition that her 130 crore citizens took charge of the country's affairs and not leave that to politicians alone.
The AAP chief said 75 years ago when the citizens of the country had come together, they threw the British out and "if 130 crore citizens unite today, think as one family, India will become unstoppable".