New Delhi: Till a couple of months ago it was widely believed that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were a battle between BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. But the scenario has changed now after a newbie burst on to the political scene.
After a spectacular debut in Delhi Assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party announced that it would contest as many Lok Sabha seats as possible and may even project Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as its prime ministerial candidate.
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CNN-IBN has learnt that the party is actually focusing on around 100 seats in a few key states and urban pockets in particular. With elections just about four months away, AAP leaders know time is not on their side, but even if the party can win 15 to 20 seats, it can alter political equations at the Centre.
AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said, "Battle between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi is not good for the country. My dream is to have someone like Arvind Kejriwal at that post."
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But for all the euphoria in the media and outside, the reality is that winning a Lok Sabha election is very different from a Vidhan Sabha fight in Delhi. Of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, the AAP, party sources said, is likely to seriously focus on less than a 100 seats.
The key seats for AAP are urban pockets of Delhi with seven seats, Haryana with 10 seats, Mumbai and Thane with 7 seats and Bangalore with 5 seats. The party will fight elections on these seats on the plank of corruption.
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But the party might face hurdle in the rest of Maharashtra having 41 seats, Karnataka having 23 seats, Gujarat 26 seats, Uttar Pradesh 10 seats (AAP's major focus on Gautam Buddh Nagar and Kanpur), Andhra Pradesh 42 seats (high pro and anti-Telangana sentiments) and Kerala's 20 seats.
While the BJP publicly insists that Kejriwal was only a Delhi phenomenon, it is privately worried that the AAP effect can damage it in 15 to 20 seats across urban India, a key target of Modi's campaign.
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Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, "A vote for alternative government headed by Narendra Modi is really a vote going to be in India's interest."
Many observers believed that the AAP will damage the Congress more than the BJP. In Delhi, for example, AAP did well amongst traditional Congress voters like Dalits.
But the party is yet to accept the AAP phenomena. Congress leader and Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, "In the past several parties have been born and many have simply disappeared. You shouldn't lose sleep over them."
Whether the AAP effect translates into Lok Sabha seats remains uncertain but what is clear is that a new dimension has been added to an already fascinating Lok Sabha election battle.