As questions are being raised about the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) national ambitions following its poor performance in Punjab and Goa , the Arvind Kejriwal-led party faces a bigger test in about a month.
This is when AAP makes its full-fledged debut in the Delhi civic elections scheduled for next month. The Bharatiya Janata Party presently rules the north, south and east municipal corporations.
A small, but significant test, lies even sooner. Bypoll to the Rajouri Garden assembly seat will be held on April 9, just ahead of the municipal elections.
The seat fell vacant after AAP legislator Jarnail Singh -- a former journalist who hit the headlines for hurling a shoe at then Union home minister P Chidambaram -- quit on January 14 to contest against Shiromani Akali Dal chief Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi in Punjab. Singh came third, losing to Badal by over 45,000 votes.
The AAP could not open its account in Goa. In Punjab, the AAP won 20 out of 117 seats and emerged as the principal opposition party.
The municipal elections are likely to be held in the second half of April, though dates are still be announced. This will be the AAP’s first full-fledged foray in the Delhi civic elections.
In the municipal by-elections held last year, the AAP won five out of 13 seats that went to polls. The party had swept the 2015 Delhi assembly elections -- winning 67 out of 70 seats .
To a specific question if the electoral setback to the party in Punjab will affect its chances in the municipal polls,senior AAP leader Kumar Vishwas said the AAP had in the past registered a ‘historic victory’ in the Delhi assembly polls in 2015 despite a rout in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
“We will go into the MCD elections with the good work done by the AAP government in the city. Be it opening mohalla clinics, reforms in education or providing drinking water, people of Delhi are seeing all this happening,” said Vishwas.
A senior AAP legislator, however, said the loss in Punjab would dent the party’s prospects in Delhi.
“The Punjab results have come ‘too” close to the municipal elections. It has hit the morale of the party cadre badly as the Punjab campaign on the ground was led by AAP MLAs and volunteers from Delhi. Saturday’s results will energise workers of both the BJP and the Congress. Can’t say the same for AAP,” a senior party leader said.
The BJP, which has been on an electoral surge in other states, is in power in the three corporations for a decade. The Congress is the principal opposition.
The BJP wants to retain power by repeating its performance in the recent local body polls in Maharasthra and Orissa in the Capital. The Congress on the other hand looks at it as an opportunity to revive the party in the city polity after drawing a naught in the 2015 assembly elections.
AAP legislators will play a critical role in the civic elections with the party literally giving a free hand to them in ticket distribution. At least 50% of ticket selection in each assembly segment is on legislators’ recommendations.
The AAP has already declared candidates for 248 out of 272 municipal seats across the three corporations. The candidates have started door-to-door campaign and top leaders led by chief minister Arvind Kjeriwal are holding jansabhas (public meetings).