Just eight months before Delhi assembly elections, the capital's ruling Aam Aadmi Party received a huge setback in Delhi. None of its candidates could weather the saffron storm with BJP winning all seven seats. But what made it even more humiliating for AAP was the fact that it ended up in the third spot at a 18.1% vote share with BJP getting a lion's share of 56.5% followed by Congress with 22.5%.
Defeat in its own fortress
Delhi has been AAP's fortress where it created history in 2015 by winning 67 out of 70 assembly segments. This elections saw the worst performance by the party since it came into existence in 2012. In the 2013 assembly election, when AAP was just about a year old, it got a vote share of 29.5% which rose to 54% in 2015. The slide in its popularity began in 2017 when it fared badly in the municipal elections and could mop up only 26% votes.
AAP's political relevance is hugely dependent upon its electoral performance in Delhi because it has no electoral representation anywhere outside Delhi except in Punjab where the party is already in disarray.
The Lok Sabha polls results do not augur well for the party as it gears up for the assembly polls. Its seven candidates had based their campaigns squarely on the performance of their government, especially the work done in education and health sectors which has been widely acknowledged. Party chief and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal's statehood plank, however, did not resonate much with the electorate.
After it won 67 assembly seats, AAP had started claiming that major vote banks of the capital - JJ clusters, unauthorised colonies, scheduled castes, Muslims and Poorvanchalis - were its core vote banks. Its leaders extensively targeted these sections during campaigning.
What worked for AAP in 2015
More than anything else what worked for AAP in 2015 was its goodwill built on a plank of alternative politics. That has got somewhat dissipated with the party behaving like any other political party - failing to keep electoral promises, indulging in a blame game or bristling when criticised, being non-transparent and making allegations and then apologising - which led to disenchantment. Kejriwal showing his desperation for an alliance with Congress also left many AAP supporters disappointed. Political compulsions also led Kejriwal to make public appearances with opposition leaders whom he used to call 'corrupt'.
BJP will be snapping at the party's heels and a resurgent Congress will also be a big headache. During the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, two AAP leaders crossed over to BJP which has since then claimed that 14 AAP MLAs are in touch with the party. The party will have to keep its house intact. There are disgruntled elements in the party, including some who were denied tickets for the LS polls. However, no major internal crisis is likely to hit the party since most of the vocal leaders who questioned Kejriwal have either been shown the door or sidelined.
Eight months to prove
The defeat came despite AAP starting its campaign in all seven Lok Sabha constituencies over six months in advance by making full statehood for Delhi the key issue. Now, it has only eight months for salvaging the situation.