The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) headed by Arvind Kejriwal, which turns three on Thursday, has been a non-starter in his home state, Haryana.
The party, born of agitation politics that saw impromptu support in many parts of north India, has been unable to build an effective organisational set-up in the state so far. The magic of its mascot – who is now the Delhi chief minister with a brutal majority in the 70-member House – has also not got the anticipated response.
The AAP’s magnificent triumph in the national capital, where it outdid all expectations in the assembly elections in February, had filled party supporters in Haryana, which surrounds Delhi on three sides, with enthusiasm. But it petered out within a few weeks after a full-blown war erupted between top leaders of the party and the subsequent split, leaving it in disarray.
‘HARYANA TO BE ON RADAR AFTER PUNJAB’
While the AAP is currently focusing all its energy on Punjab – the state in which it had sprung a surprise in the parliamentary polls last year by clinching four seats – for the assembly elections in 2017, party leaders in Haryana are hopeful about its future in the state. “The party is going step by step. After the assembly polls in Punjab, the focus will be on Haryana,” AAP leader Naveen Jaihind told HT.
The party is already working on building an organisational structure from the grassroots, enrolling members and conducting awareness drives to gain a toehold in the state. Local leaders are counting on the performance of the Kejriwal government in Delhi for much-needed heft. “We made 70 poll promises in Delhi and have already fulfilled 10 major ones in as many months. The Khattar government made 150 promises in Haryana. Has it fulfilled even 12 in the past year? No. Our performance in Delhi will resonate with the people here and also show our intent,” he said.
INTERNAL BICKERING DENTED PARTY
The name-calling in public and the messy split, which led to the ouster of Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and others, appear to have hurt the party the most in Punjab and Haryana – in that order. There was a vertical split in Haryana, with several of its office-bearers and supporters siding with Yadav, who also belongs to the state, and other rebels. The Swaraj Abhiyan, a group formed by Yadav and Bhushan, is also trying to find its feet in the state.
When the AAP was formally launched on November 26 three years ago, Kejriwal and Yadav were hoping to ride the support they had received in their home state during the anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare. Also, there was a political vacuum in the state with strong anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress, conviction of two top leaders of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in a recruitment scam and no sign of a surge in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
However, it came a cropper in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, with all 10 candidates losing their security deposits after showing promise. The poor showing and a minuscule vote share of 4% in the state led the party to a blame game in which Yadav and his team were targeted.
“There was a tactical blunder. The party had spread its resources thin, contesting seats where it had no organisational set-up. As a result, we suffered in places likes Haryana where the party could have done much better,” said a one-time office-bearer of the party.
Later, the party was missing in action in the assembly elections in October 2014. While the move had left its supporters disappointed, some party leaders justified the decision, saying that the party did not have the “structure and organisational set-up” required for contesting the polls.