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What next for the AAP?

Soon after Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal resigned as Chief Minister of Delhi in February, the party’s chief spokesman Yogendra Yadav advised him to “slow down”. But that did not happen. The party hastened into Lok Sabha elections and, despite limited resources and lack of logistics, stretched itself thin by putting up candidates on as many as 443 seats all over the country. This may have been to gain national recognition but it also ended up with the party playing “spoiler” for other parties by cutting into traditional vote-bases.

Around the same time, Mr. Kejriwal announced his candidature from Varanasi against Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Apparently, the intention was to energise party workers and volunteers who were facing flak on the AAP’s governance ability after Mr. Kejriwal quit the Delhi government. The “bhagoda [coward]” label stuck to Mr. Kejriwal and, in hindsight, turned into a perception the party feels cost it dearly in this election. Thanks to television outreach, even villagers were questioning the AAP’s decision to quit government after 49 days. It brought in a trust deficit among people.

On the positive side, the party opened its account in Punjab with an impressive 24.5-per-cent vote-share and enhanced its percentage share in Delhi to 32.9 per cent though it did not pick up any seat. It will send four members to the Lok Sabha from Punjab. The fledgling party in its first outing would be ahead of older parties like the Janata Dal (United), the Janata Dal (Secular), the Indian National Lok Dal and the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Democratic Party in terms of number of winning MPs.

It appeared initially that Mr. Kejriwal would gain from making a contest of the Varanasi election but in retrospect he seems to have lost more than what he got. He stayed put in this constituency from April 22, not making himself available for canvassing for other party candidates. In addition, all volunteers and resources were diverted to Varanasi to ensure his victory, albeit in vain.

In that sense, the AAP has several lessons to learn. Initially, the party intended to contest from constituencies adjoining Delhi but later, in a bid to gain national recognition, it took a chance and put up candidates all over the country. To gain national party status, a party must win a six per-cent vote-share in at least four States. The AAP failed to qualify in this election as it was able to secure the required vote-share only in Punjab and Delhi, with 24.5 per cent and 32.9 per cent respectively.

It will be interesting to see how the AAP shapes up after the Lok Sabha polls. Mr. Kejriwal has termed the Punjab win as a “good start”. The party leaders are already gearing themselves up to face Assembly elections in Delhi (in the event of dissolution of the Assembly, which at the moment is in suspended animation) and in Maharashtra and Haryana later this year.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 2:33:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/what-next-for-the-aap/article6017629.ece

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