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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

What ails Aam Aadmi Party is inexperience

Chetan Chauhan and Brajesh Kumar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 26, 2014
First Published: 00:26 IST(26/3/2014) | Last Updated: 01:45 IST(26/3/2014)

Ambition unlimited — the hallmark of the Aam Aadmi Party, which made it possible for a fledgling outfit to bag 28 seats in the Delhi assembly elections – is now turning out to be a nightmare for the party in this summer’s Lok Sabha polls.

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Its beginning was so impressive that nobody thought of preparing for the future. For, AAP, which took birth from the October 2012 Jan Lokpal Bill agitation, led by social activist Anna Hazare, managed to upset all opinion polls in its first electoral venture.

Three problems are now bothering AAP. First, a senior party leader said, “There is a growing feeling that the party may not do well outside Delhi. Our candidates in many places are not attracting crowds.” Second, the spread of candidates across India has put pressure on the party’s limited resources. Candidates like Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh are fully dependent on central funding and the state units have not been able to generate adequate funds for campaigning.

Third, AAP’s national ambition is also putting a lot of pressure on its mascot, Kejriwal, the only leader with a pan-India appeal, to campaign across India. AAP national secretary Pankaj Gupta recently told HT that the candidates had to be taught how to contest polls without violating rules. The reason for this crisis is simple: Inexperience.

It all began with a high note as the party icon Arvind Kejriwal’s promise to provide “alternate and clean politics” evoked unexpectedly positive response. More than a million new members joined the party in a short span.

After forming the Delhi government, Kejriwal started well by delivering his promises on free water and subsidised power. Based on initial response, the party started spreading to other states. But in February, came the first setback— Kejriwal decided to quit the government as he could not get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed.

The party — and Kejriwal’s supporters — thought it was a great tactical move, though. They tried to cash in on it. AAP decided to contest over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha elections and wanted Kejriwal to campaign across India. Till Tuesday, the party had fielded 351 candidates. Now, setting up a command-and-control system seems to be the main obstacle before the party.

The tussle between the old and the new resulted in the entire Gurgaon unit resigning on Sunday. Senior party leader Yogendra Yadav is contesting from Gurgaon.

Many others like founder member Ashok Aggarwal and Madhu Bhaduri also resigned, accusing the party going back on its ideals. But that was just the beginning of the simmering discontent.

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