Before kick-starting his campaign in Delhi last week, Arvind Kejriwal had a closed-door meeting with all Aam Aadmi Party volunteers.
The former Delhi Chief Minister was told by his trusted foot-soldiers that unlike in the Delhi Assembly election last year, the party is not on a sound electoral footing this time round.
However, this feedback has helped the party fine-tune its campaign and look for ways to replicate in the parliamentary poll scene its stunning performance in the Assembly elections.
A fact acknowledged by the party’s top brass is that it failed to communicate effectively the reasons for the sudden resignation of its government in Delhi, resulting in both the Congress and the BJP accusing it of running away from responsibility.
Voices on the ground indicate that despite a fall in its popularity ratings among Delhi’s well-to-do class, AAP continues to enjoy support in certain pockets of the middle class that credits Mr. Kejriwal with making it involved in politics, and believes that his team is the best bet yet for changing the system.
The AAP has pulled out all stops to regain lost ground through renewed emphasis on explaining that it had to resign after the BJP and the Congress “ganged up” to stop the AAP government from functioning.
Its strategists are trying to facilitate a convergence of three main vote blocs that will enable the party to rebound — slum clusters, Muslims and floating votes.
Decisive vote bloc
Senior party leader from Delhi unit Dilip Pandey claims the backing of Muslims has strengthened the party's prospects.
Going by the response to AAP roadshows and public meetings, it seems that residents of jhuggi clusters, unauthorised colonies and resettlement colonies are rallying behind the party.
The party also expects a large chunk of support from the Muslim community which forms over 12 per cent of Delhi’s population.
The minority community, which believes that the AAP candidates are better positioned to ward off the BJP’s challenge, has been warming up to the party.
The community, which shied away from voting for the AAP in the Delhi polls, forms a decisive vote bloc in Chandni Chowk, East Delhi and North-East Delhi constituencies, where the party seems to have an edge in wresting the seats from Congress candidates Kapil Sibal, Sandeep Dikshit and J.P. Agarwal respectively.
In the reserved seat of North West Delhi, AAP candidate Rakhi Birla, the party’s emerging Dalit face, is giving tough competition to Union Minister Krishna Tirath.
Syed Mohammad Raghib, a research scholar, says: “The Congress may play the spoiler among the Muslims, as it seems to have deserted the contest. Besides, by taking on Narendra Modi, AAP has emerged as an alternative for the community.”