On Thursday, a day before the results for the Lok Sabha elections were to be declared, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) headquarters at Hanuman road in Delhi was getting ready for the big day.
A tent was put over the small courtyard in front of the office building and cartons of water bottles stacked for the expected rush of member on the day when the party hoped to bag more than 20 seats from all across the country.
By Friday afternoon, the untouched stacks of cartons and long faces of party leaders and a few volunteers told the story of crashed expectations.
The one year old party that not so long ago pulled off a stunning victory in the Delhi assembly elections had not only lost all seven seats in its stronghold, it also failed to poll six percent votes in at least four states, a prerequisite to get the coveted national party status.
If not for Punjab where it won four seats, the party would not have opened its account on its high profile début.
Clearly the party had failed to live up to the unrealistic hype it had created in the run up the elections.
So what went wrong?
Senior leader and party strategist Yogendra Yadav said the party committed a number of mistakes and one that led to complete washout in Delhi was its decision to quit the Delhi government abruptly within 49 days of coming to power in January this year.
“The way we quit the government was not taken well by the people and we could have communicated it well, and involved people in the decision,” he said. Although Yadav maintained the decision was taken on principles (the party could not pass the Lokpal Bill) and it was not wrong per se, the message that went out was that the party quit to fight the Lok Sabha elections.
Again fighting Lok Sabha elections on the backdrop of stunning debut in assembly elections was perfectly sensible, but then fielding 443 candidates by a party which was not only short on funds but also a basic infrastructure in all the states defied logic.
The party spread itself thin and was unable to concentrate in its strongholds of Delhi and Haryana, from where the party kicked off its national campaign. "It was indeed a blunder to spread thin with no resources at our disposal,” a party leader admitted on condition of anonymity. The party failed to support its candidates in majority of the states asking them to fend for themselves.
Not all is lost for the party though
With four seats in Punjab with 24.4 % votes (third behind the Congress with 33% and SAD with 26%) and 33% votes in Delhi leaving behind the Congress (15%), the party has much to look forward to.
“We have become an established party in Delhi and Punjab in such a short span of time is very encouraging and we will build on it progressing state by state,” Yadav said.