Right time for AAP’s Punjab unit to cash in on Capital triumph
Struggling with infighting and loss of appeal, party needs to get its house in order ahead of the 2022 state pollsUpdated: Feb 11, 2020 21:02 IST
CHANDIGARH The thumping triumph of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi in the face of a no-holds barred campaign by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will serve as a morale booster for the party’s state unit in Punjab ahead of the 2022 assembly elections.
The AAP state leadership led by two-time Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann, who campaigned extensively in Delhi, is hoping that the result will revive its fortunes in Punjab which seems to be next on the party’s radar. Punjab is the only state other than Delhi where the AAP, born out the anti-corruption campaign that had its epicentre in the national capital, had found a political footing before slipping into disarray.
The Delhi hat-trick is bound to lift the spirits of the party cadres who desperately need a political straw in the state and broke into instant celebrations as counting trends began to indicate a resounding victory.
But the AAP’s Punjab unit will need much more than just a booster shot to pull out of the political trough the party has landed itself due to unabated infighting, splits and desertions. Prof Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science, Panjab University, said the victory will surely motivate the AAP cadres in Punjab, but the party needs to work on organisation, ideological position and local leadership to establish itself as a credible alternative. “There is opportunity for it as the Akalis are passing through their worst political phase with former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal virtually calling it a day. The BJP has also not been able to expand its base. And, there has been political vacuum in the opposition space,” he said.
The AAP, propelled by popular disenchantment against the state’s major parties, had won four of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab on debut in 2014 and then came at number two in the 2017 state polls to become the principal opposition party, but has been in terminal decline since.
Not only its organisational set-up on the ground is in total mess, eight of the 20 legislators – all of them first-timers except one – have rebelled or quit the party. A string of crushing defeats in the parliamentary elections, assembly byelections and the panchayat polls in the state have also left the party cadre disillusioned, besides pointing towards loss of appeal and support.
In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the party polled just 7.4% votes against 25% in 2014 when it won four of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Barring Mann’s re-election from Sangrur seat which is also attributed to his personal ‘rural connect’, all the other party candidates lost their security deposit last year.
Though the state unit has recently started making efforts to get back into ‘activist mode’ through street protests, they lack consistency and have been made in fits and starts so far. With two years to go for the state assembly, the AAP will need to put its house in order to improve its political prospects in the state.