Swaraj India, the fledgling political party under the leadership of former AAP leaders such as Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, announced that a large chunk of AAP’s office bearers in Kerala have joined the party.
These include 77 elected State Coordination Committee members and around 700 volunteers, according to a statement from the party.
Among those who resigned from AAP and joined Swaraj India are the former Convener of State Coordination Committee, 19 out of 21 members of the Executive and 56 members of the Council as well as 12 District Conveners, the statement said.
According to the party, prominent among those who today join Swaraj India include State Coordination Committee Convener Glavious T Alexander, Co-Conveners Thomas Kotturan, Anil Kumar Mooledam and Meena Chandran, and secretaries Saleem Kunnathunad, Anitha Bharathi, Moosa Jarathinkal and treasurer Hareendran.
Many Delhi-based leaders from Kerala, including Niju Thomas (Vice-President, AAP South Indian Cell Delhi), Mobin V.M. (President, Chandnichowk Loksabha AAP South Indian Cell) and Antony Thomas (President, North Delhi Loksabha AAP South Indian Cell) also left AAP to join Swaraj India.
They released a joint statement issued by the former leadership of AAP Kerala titled “Why We Resigned From AAP”.
The key reason for the move seems to have been the stagnation that AAP finds itself in, in Kerala.
Despite being in a promising position in the state five years ago, AAP has not been able to make much progress on the ground due to the presence of the Left Front.
While across India AAP tended to attract many left-leaning and progressive voters disillusioned by the perceived corruption of the Congress Party, but are also anxious for a BJP alternative, that position is already occupied by the Left Front in Kerala.
Because of this, AAP’s way forward in Kerala has turned out to be harder than in a demographically similar state like Punjab.
The only viable alternative would be to ally with the Left Front or the Congress. However, given AAP’s history, allying with the Congress would be more difficult for the party to justify on a pan-India level. However, an alliance with Left parties would be easier to justify.
However, Left parties tend to evoke strong reactions among certain sections of the population, especially those who suffered due to the party’s land reforms. Traditionally, Left gets its support from OBC and Dalit groups, while ‘forward communities’ favor the Congress.
Unfortunately for AAP in Kerala, a large chunk, if not the majority, of its supporters and workers in the state are drawn from these traditional pro-Congress demographics. Any kind of alliance with the Left would be an anathema to such workers.
This trend is also visible among BJP supporters in the state. The BJP too derives most of its workers from communities and households that were traditionally pro-Congress and vehemently opposed to Left politics. Hence, BJP workers in the state exhibit a greater dislike for the Left than for the Congress.
Some of this discontent with a ‘soft approach’ towards the Left could be seen in the “Why We Resigned From AAP” document released by the rebels.
“At no point of time did AAP attempt to be force of alternative politics in Kerala; in fact, alternative politics was dramatically avoided in Kerala,” says the rebels in their first point.
“The focus of AAP was to maintain certain political equations with other prominent parties in power in Kerala and not serve the people of Kerala,” they said.
Given the opposing directions in which the national and state leaderships seemed to be moving, the AAP has achieved very little on the ground in the last 3-4 years.
“National leadership of AAP deliberately crippled the party in Kerala and did great disservice to right of people to enjoy benefit of alternative politics. The mass resignations were to renew all out efforts to create much needed space for really positive people-oriented pure alternate politics in Kerala,” the rebels said.
INNER PARTY DEMOCRACY
Another grouse was related to the very allegation on which Swaraj Party was formed — lack of inner party democracy in AAP.
“Inner party democracy was destroyed through coercion – [the] state convener [was] forced to resign, all 14 district committees, 140 assembly level committees, 98% local body level committees were dissolved and no elected committee at any level was reconstituted,” the statement pointed out.
The rebels seem to be hopeful that they would be able to realize their dream of a third front under Swaraj Party, a sentiment apparently endorsed by the national leadership.
“People of Kerala have long felt the need to challenge the LDF-UDF binary of Kerala Politics; this development gives rise to a new progressive, secular and ecologically sensitive alternative in the State; I warmly welcome my ex colleagues into the folds of Swaraj India,” said Yogendra Yadav, National President of Swaraj India.
“I am confident that with so many energetic and committed political activists joining the Swaraj India team of Kerala, we would be able to relate to the needs and aspirations of the people of Kerala.”
The Swaraj India Kerala team will soon meet to elect state and district level committees and commence ground level activities in line with the vision of Swaraj India, the party added.
The move comes at a crucial point in Kerala’s political history as the Left Front under Pinarayi Vijayan looks all set to create history by becoming the first formation in power to survive an election.
Kerala has never elected the same front twice in a row. Thanks in part to a decent performance by the LDF, but largely to the total disarray in the Congress Party, that is likely to change when people of the state go to the polls in April.
A defeat in the state could lead to a rapid disintegration of the Congress as the BJP goes all out to attract Syrian Christian leaders to its camp.
Congress’ troubles could open up space for an alternative like AAP or Swaraj Party to exploit.
While the BJP too is eyeing the opportunity, the party’s brand of politics will make it nearly impossible for it to replace the Congress in Kerala.
The Congress-led UDF traditionally gets about a third of its votes from various Christian communities — particularly the well-to-do and powerful Syrian Christian community — another third from Muslims and the remaining third from upper caste Hindu communities combined with the well-to-do segments of the Ezhava (OBC) population.
The Congress has, over the last 10 years or so, lost the majority of its Hindu voters to the BJP.
While a ‘softer’ avatar for the BJP in the state can attract Syrian Christian voters (who in all make up about 13% of the state’s population), the party will find it practically impossible to attract the final third of the Congress support base — its Muslim voters.
This opens up an opportunity for a ‘secular’ alternative to the Congress Party that can ally with the Indian Union Muslim League — Congress’ partner in the UDF that secures most of the Muslim votes for the formation.
In fact, till about four years ago, AAP was singularly well placed to be that party and had (has?) a lot of goodwill in the Muslim community in Kerala.
It also has considerable goodwill among ‘progressive upper caste’ Hindu voters — who find BJP’s brand of politics unpalatable — as well as among well-to-do Ezhavas who come from traditional pro-Congress family backgrounds.
Newcomer Swaraj India, as of now, remains largely unknown, and it will be up to the party, including the newcomers, to promote it as a viable alternative to the Congress in case the LDF retains power early next year.