The Rise of Raghav: With an Enviable Résumé, the Young AAP Leader Faces His Biggest Test in Gujarat

There are very few people within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who have got as many opportunities as 33-year-old Raghav Chadha. From a volunteer to a spokesperson in 2013, advisor to Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in 2015, Lok Sabha candidate from south Delhi in 2019, MLA candidate from Rajinder Nagar in 2020, chairman of Delhi Legislative Assembly Committee on Peace and Harmony, vice chairman of Delhi Jal Board, member of the Political Affairs Committee in 2021, AAP’s Punjab co-incharge in 2021, Rajya Sabha member from Punjab in 2022, and now, AAP co-incharge of Gujarat. In fact, the party decided to make the official announcement of his latest responsibility on the day it held its first national convention of its elected representatives in Delhi.

There have been controversies along the way. The Punjab government in July appointed the Rajya Sabha lawmaker as the chairperson of a temporary advisory committee to guide the government on “matters of public importance”. This drew sharp criticism from AAP’s rivals. Leader of opposition Partap Singh Bajwa compared Chadha to the British Resident imposed on Punjab by colonial rulers. He tweeted calling Bhagwant Mann a “showpiece CM”, Chadha the “working CM”, and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal the “super CM” of Punjab.

However, all that has failed to stop the rise of Raghav Chadha.

‘Gujarat is AAP v/s BJP; 2024 will be Modi v/s Kejriwal’

A day after assuming his challenging new responsibility in Gujarat, Chadha told News18, “The other way of looking at Gujarat is that it is a fight between AAP and BJP. Congress is out of the race.”

2024 is a Narendra Modi vs Arvind Kejriwal election, he said. “If there is one political party that has what it takes to take on the might of the BJP, it is the AAP.”

In a carryover of the refrain of AAP in the recent Punjab elections swept by the party, Chadha said the larger focus of AAP is going to be on the narrative of ‘badlav’ (change), maintaining that it is what Gujarat has been yearning for, as for the past 27 years, it has had the same political party running the administration. “The people are fed up with the BJP and therefore the yearning for change,” he said.

Young and restless

The fast-growing Aam Aadmi Party will turn 10 this November and, not surprisingly, the majority of its cadre and leaders are young. AAP also makes a big noise about its leaders being educated professionals.

On both these counts, Raghav Chadha, with his qualification as a Chartered Accountant and education at the prestigious London School of Economics, boosted the image that the party crafted for itself. The fact that Chadha’s family did not have any roots in politics also helped amplify AAP’s image of a party that gives space to rank newcomers and stands against “nepotism” or “parivaarwaad”.

Face value

In the course of its short history of 10 years, AAP has gone through many churnings. At each of these moments, for instance, post-2015, saw the exit of many leaders like Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, etc, who were familiar spokespersons of the party, actually created the space for young spokespersons to grow rapidly, and Chadha was one among them.

In fact, it is his ease in front of the camera, and easy articulation of complex issues in both English and Hindi, that first got him the attention of the people and, in turn, propelled his rise within the party.

Many-sided

Raghav Chadha is not known to have any sharp or rigid ideological leanings which has worked to his advantage as AAP itself has shied away from being strapped to any ideological position. Additionally, he spends hours in diligent preparation be it for a press conference, a television debate, or a speech in Parliament. He is also equally at ease in a kurta-pajama as a three-piece suit and straddles the political and corporate world with equal ease.

Chadha enjoys cordial relationships with other netas and takes care to build ties beyond the gestures of formality. He was AAP’s go-to person when it came to the party’s ties with the Trinamool Congress (TMC), and also when it came to dealing with top executives of Facebook during the hearings of the assembly committee on peace and harmony.

Rapport with Kejriwal

The AAP MP enjoys the trust of party chief Arvind Kejriwal and executes the latter’s brief in full measure. And, he has expressed his gratitude to Kejriwal several times for the many opportunities. No one in AAP is as loquacious, as vociferous as Raghav, say observers.

For instance, when he was appointed Gujarat co-incharge, he said, “I would like to thank my neta, my guru, and AAP’s national convener Arvind Kejriwal, for trusting in my abilities that I can fulfil a huge responsibility and I can strengthen the party. I take a vow to stake everything I have to make sure that I meet every expectation that my neta Arvind Kejriwal ji and my party have of me.”

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