A day before the counting of votes, AAP leader Prashant Bhushan was expecting at least 15 seats for his party. "We have a strong chance in 15 seats, but we will be happy with eight. But if we get less than that, we have a lot of work ahead of us," he told HT.
A day later, on Friday, AAP won just four seats, all in Punjab. Party chief Arvind Kejriwal lost Varanasi to PM designate Narendra Modi.
In Mumbai, where AAP was expecting Medha Patkar to snatch a victory, it failed to open its account.
AAP's hopes to be recognised as a national party after the elections were also shattered as it failed to get the required 6% vote share each, in at least four states. Clearly, the party suffered due to a series of strategic blunders before the polls began.
Most people agree that Kejriwal's decision to quit as Delhi CM after merely 49 days in power was the biggest mistake. "Had he continued, we could have concentrated in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab to swing more seats," a senior AAP leader told HT.
Within the party there were complaints of senior leaders like Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Gopal Rai becoming virtually unapproachable to volunteers. "They stopped meeting us, wouldn't reply to SMSs, ignored our suggestions and did as they pleased," another senior AAP founder member said.
In Delhi, the city in-charge, Ashish Talwar, was extremely unpopular among volunteers. Scores of volunteers HT spoke to said there had been numerous complaints against Talwar but they had all been ignored. "He used to speak rudely and never gave any attention to volunteers' suggestions," another senior founder member told HT.
The senior AAP leadership also felt that the media had turned against them. "But instead of reaching out to the media to start a dialogue, our leadership got terrible advice to start boycotting media organisations," the AAP leader said. This will also affect the party's finances in the future. It managed to garner about R35 crore for the general elections, but with donations likely to shrink after LS polls, it may have difficulty sustaining itself.
Finally, it was the AAP's Delhi rule that came back to haunt them the most. As a senior bureaucrat in Delhi said, "I advised Kejriwal to do a few things that could make his governance visible. Simple administrative moves would have made a huge difference, instead of staking their future on a Jan Lokpal Bill."
In some ways, the perceived inability of Kejriwal and his senior colleagues to build consensus, and listen to his well-wishers, also proved to be a major strategic blunder.