New Delhi, May 5: As the favourite 'punching bag' of Indian politics finds himself at the receiving end of yet another 'slapgate', the strong reactions from the Opposition and a surge in support for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) just a week ahead of the May 12 polls for seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi may actually turn the tide further in favour of the ruling party.
Ahead of the May 12 polls, AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal found himself at the receiving end of another 'slapping' incident, hotting up the political atmosphere in the national capital with the AAP and other opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress terming the attack as another conspiracy by the ruling BJP at the Centre against AAP which has, over the past four and a half years, charged them of putting constant obstacles in the functioning of the state government.
As leaders of various opposition parties voice concern over the attack on Kejriwal, terming it as an assault on the mandate given to the AAP Government in Delhi, the incident seems to have led to a surge in support for the party among the people of the city.
The incident seems to have given a rallying point for the AAP, which finds itself battling for relevance on the national scene after failed attempts to make inroads in the political space in states like Goa , Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
As it approaches the Lok Sabha elections, the AAP, which in 2015 looked to extend its reach pan India with its alternative model of governance having a resonance with middle class sections and intellectuals across the country, is in the danger of being reduced to a regional player confined to the National capital territory of Delhi.
No wonder, the AAP is looking to maximise its tally of Lok Sabha seats in Delhi to to establish its presence in Parliament and retain its relevance as a national player.
With the alliance with the Congress in Delhi not materialising due to the insistence of AAP for a tie up in Haryana and Punjab as well, the task of bagging a majority of seats in the National capital city seems an uphill one for the party, especially if one goes by the seat share held by the BJP, Congress and AAP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
A look at the vote share of the three parties in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the 2017 elections to the three municipal corporations makes the BJP a clear favorite over the Congress and AAP.
While in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP got a 46 per cent vote share, AAP and the Congress got 33 per cent and 15 per cent vote share respectively. In 2017 municipal elections, The BJP won a majority in all three corporations with 36 per cent vote share while AAP came second with 26 per cent vote share and Congress was third with 21 per cent vote share.
Though the vote share of the BJP is expected to come down by nearly 5 to 7 per cent , it could still bag a major chunk of the seats with the advantage of the decreased vote share of the BJP getting divided between AAP and Congress.
In this context, AAP leaders feel that the surge in its support, following the slapgate incident could lead to increasing number if voters in Delhi expressing their support for the AAP, boosting the vote share of the party in Delhi, enabling it to win a sizeable chunk of the Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.
In fact, AAP feels that it has an edge over mainstream parties due to its people-centric policies and its record of clean governance.
The attack, which happened while Kejriwal was addressing a road show in Moti Nagar, has given the AAP a tool to attack the BJP, its main rival in Delhi.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj alleged that the BJP might be behind the attack and asserted the incident would not deter the party's spirit.
"Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal got attacked during the roadshow. We condemned this cowardly act. This opposition sponsored attack cannot stop the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi," he said in a statement on Saturday.
Later, the Aam Aadmi Party said Kejriwal has been attacked several times “in a systematic and clearly visible pattern”.
“Many of the attackers in the past have had proven links with the BJP,” it said.
“The wife of today’s attacker also confirmed he is a Modi ‘bhakta’ (supporter),'the AAP said.
The party also accused the Delhi Police of "deliberately lowering its guard to make the chief minister vulnerable to attacks".
"An attacker coming so close to CM could have had a pistol or knife. Undoubtedly, the Modi Government is out to get the CM killed in such attacks," the statement added.
“It's not an attack on Arvind Kejriwal. It's an attack on Delhi and its mandate. The people of Delhi will give a befitting reply to BJP on May 12,” the AAP said.
In this context, AAP leaders point out that such incidents in the last had only served to boost its fortunes.
The party's Lok Sabha candidate Atishi said the attack indicated the level to which the BJP could fall.
'Today’s attack on Arvind Kejriwal is an indicator of levels to which BJP can stoop! They did the same thing before 2015 Delhi elections. In 2015, AAP won 67/70 seats and these attacks by BJP will ensure that AAP gets 7/7 seats in Delhi,' Atishi said.
In the 2015 assembly elections, AAP had scripted history by winning 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi Assembly.
In fact, political observers admit that the incident could boost the support for AAP and Kejriwal among people of the state, many of whom see the AAP as victim of the interference from the BJP Government at the Centre.
AAP leaders say that the people of Delhi are happy over many of steps taken by the AAP Government for welfare of the various sections.
They feel that for the middle class and the lower middle class, the measures taken by the AAP G led by Arvind Kejriwal, like providing electricity at half rates for those consuming up to 200 units per month, providing free water up to 20000 ML per month, introduction of online delivery of services, starting of mohalla clinics, improving the condition in government schools and reining in fees charged by private schools, have provided a lot of relief in their day to day existence.
Kejriwal was on Saturday slapped by a man when he was holding a roadshow in Delhi's Moti Nagar area for the Lok Sabha elections. The incident happened when Arvind Kejriwal was waving at the crowd gathered during the roadshow. A man climbed atop the vehicle and landed a slap on the Delhi chief minister's face.
Saturday's attack on Arvind Kejriwal was not the first time he was assaulted during his roadshows or gatherings.
On November 20 2018, a man, identified as Anil Sharma, handed a letter to Arvind Kejriwal, swooped down to touch the AAP chief's feet and smeared chilli powder on his face.
The incident happened inside Delhi Secretariat.
In April 2016, a man threw a shoe at Arvind Kejriwal when he was announcing the reintroduction of the Odd-Even scheme in Delhi. The man, identified as Ved Prakash of Aam Aadmi Sena, later alleged that the AAP was selling fake CNG stickers during the Odd-Even scheme.
On February 2016, some people attacked Arvind Kejriwal's car with iron rods and sticks in Punjab's Ludhiana. A month before, a member of the Aam Aadmi Army, Arjun Arora, had thrown ink at Arvind Kejriwal.
On April 8, 2014, an autorickshaw driver slapped Arvind Kejriwal in Sultanpuri area of Delhi.
The same year, a man, who called himself a supporter of Anna Hazare, climbed atop Kejriwal's open jeep and hit him on his neck.
In 2013, a man, identified as Nachiketa Vaghrekar, threw ink at Arvind Kejriwal when he was addressing a press conference. (UNI)