In a complete reversal of fortunes for the Aam Aadmi Party in just over two years, changemaker Arvind Kejriwal’s party is set to be routed in the municipal election.
From forcing two main national parties to a corner to now itself struggling to exist, the slide for AAP has been steep.
The result will force the Aam Aadmi Party, especially Kejriwal, who was positioning himself as a challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by taking him on directly in public discourse, to ask himself some uncomfortable questions. How a city he mesmerised in 2015 could so decisively swing away from him and his anti-politics plank?
Here’s the difference AAP may have to bring in its functioning following Wednesday’s drubbing.
Change of tack: AAP’s rout in MCD polls will also be seen as a personal setback to Kejriwal as the party had put Brand Kejriwal vs Brand Modi, describing the Prime Minister as the only lifeline for the BJP’s alleged misrule in the MCD. While BJP’s posters before the polls displayed pictures of party president Amit Shah and Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari, only Kejriwal dawned all AAP hoardings plastered across the city. Even party’s name was missing from the hoardings, putting a premium on Kejriwal’s goodwill only.
Put off expansion: The results may also force the party to do rethink its plan of contesting in other states. Soon after the Delhi High Court order that stamped the L-G as the real administrator of the city in 2016, the party had gone on an offensive. It gave responsibility of different states to senior party leaders asking them to lead organisation building exercise in states, such as Gujarat, Goa and Himachal Pradesh. After Punjab assembly election, Kejriwal was scheduled to address a rally in Ahmedabad on March 26. But the event was converted into a volunteers’ meet, which was eventually addressed by Gujarat in-charge Gopal Rai. However, following the MCD results, the party may have to redesign its plans to expand in the country.
Quit blaming EVMs: Repeating what they said after Punjab assembly elections, the party blamed faulty electronic voting machines (EVMs) for results in favour of the BJP. The political line is not surprising as the party leaders had started listing EVMs as the sole possible cause for its possible loss, soon after the pollsters predicted a huge win for the BJP. Quoting an internal survey, days ahead of the polls, the party had claimed to be winning 218 of 272 seats across the north, south and east corporations. But evaluating other possible reasons for its loss may help the party stay afloat.
Rein in rebellion: Sources within the party say not many members are ready to buy the official line on the consecutive loss. “Only investigations will establish if there was any tampering. But the fact remains, that the AAP on the ground on Sunday was not the same as in 2013 or 2015. Booth management is the key to win any election. Unlike in 2015, when energetic AAP volunteers dominated almost all the booths, the number of volunteers at polling booths on majority of the seats was fewer than the BJP and Congress,” said an office bearer of AAP, adding that the party started going on the reverse soon after the ticket diatribution.
Party leaders said several party volunteers stopped working on the ground as they were not given tickets. The fact that the rank and file was unhappy with party’s decisions and strategies was also reflected by the open rebellion by party legislators and senior party leaders. AAP’s Bawana legislator Ved Parkash quit the party and Delhi assembly just ahead of the polls and joined the BJP. Janakpuri MLA Rajesh Rishi also went public ‘warning’ Kejriwal of a defeat and said he was surrounded by a ‘coterie’, which did not give him the right feedback.