Two years ago the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) came to power winning an unprecedented 67 seats in the 70-seat Delhi assembly. Such was the euphoria and jubilation that it appeared that the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP was the political alternative the people have been yearning for. It appeared to be the replacement for a dispirited Congress and posed a serious challenge to a rising BJP. But as Voltaire said: “Great responsibility follows inseparably from great power”; and the greater is the fall when such responsibilities are not met.
Without doubt the results of the Rajouri Garden bypolls, which came out last week, should be a wake-up call for AAP. Not only did it lose the seat — earlier held by its MLA Jarnail Singh who resigned to fight the polls in Punjab — but it also ended up a distant third. To add insult to injury AAP’s candidate lost his deposit.
AAP leaders have said that the defeat was “expected” — this hardly erases the fact that the people felt neglected by their representative and the party. As reported by Hindustan Times, the voters felt that AAP failed to “respect the mandate” they gave it in 2015.
Based on its 2015 Delhi victory, AAP drew up ambitious plans for other states. The results to the assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, earlier last month, exposed the misconception that AAP had expanded beyond Delhi. Now it seems, chinks are appearing in its armour in Delhi itself.
It is difficult to say whether the bypoll results will have an effect on the MCD polls this Sunday. And while it is foolhardy to write political obits based on one result, it is hard to ignore the signals: The voter is disillusioned by AAP’s style of politics.
The party needs to move away from it perpetual ‘protest mode’. It has overplayed this card. This might have worked in the past, but not anymore. A party’s leadership and government that delivers, and not plays victim, is what the people want. A good start would be in focusing on providing basic amnesties like water, as residents in Rajouri Garden told HT. Similarly, AAP’s current protest against electronic voting machines is seen by many as political opportunism and an issue raked up to lure people’s attention away from its performance or lack of it.
Last week’s results show that the voter cares about local issues, is demanding and will not reward non-performers. This is also a message for all political parties.