From four months ago — when it had surprised poll pundits and perhaps itself to win 28 Delhi Assembly seats — to its failure to win even a single Lok Sabha seat in the national capital, Aam Aadmi Party’s dramatic slide of fortunes may be some sort of a record for any party. And no sooner had the first results started trickling in, there seemed more trouble for AAP internally with Ilyas Azmi, its political affairs committee member, blaming Arvind Kejriwal’s “autocratic style of functioning” for the rout.
“The party has no performance anywhere except Punjab. The reason is that one man — Kejriwal — hijacked the decision-making process in the name of Swaraj. There is no inner party democracy, PAC was never consulted either on leaving the government or in the matter of ticket distribution. It is just the Arvind-Manish clique that is running the party,” he said.
Other AAP leaders made little effort to hide their disappointment with the Delhi results or that the party may have paid the price for Kejriwal’s hasty resignation. What they refuse to acknowledge, however, is how the party spread itself too thin contesting 443 seats with a Rs 37 crore kitty against the better judgement of Kejriwal and how it may have paid the price of diluting its original Assembly poll plank of corruption to start talking about communalism as an equal if not greater menace.
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Kejriwal’s first declaration at the India Islamic Cultural Centre, when he had said communalism is a bigger menace, had met with Twitter outrage, forcing him to revise it to say that the two are equally big problems. But the taint of attempted appeasement may not have entirely worn away from the party that first woke up to the potential Muslim support after the Assembly polls and then went all out to woo the community, hobnobbing with controversial cleric Maulana Tauqueer Raza and the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys’ Association.
The eye-ball grabbing tactic of fielding Kejriwal against Modi in Varanasi got the party headlines and Muslim support, but cost it a sure seat. There is little doubt within the party or outside that had the former Delhi chief minister chosen a Delhi seat, the party’s tally would have been five instead of four.
Kumar Vishwas, AAP’s so-called youth icon, after camping in Amethi for five months, had a 25000-plus tally to show — barely managing to save his deposit in the high-profile constituency. There are some views that while Vishwas raked up the anti incumbency sentiment, it was BJP’s Smriti Irani who walked away with the votes.
The party has four seats in Punjab as consolation prize but the Delhi defeat clearly rankles. Both Yogendra Yadav — who came fourth in Gurgaon — and Kejriwal have admitted that the Delhi results have been a shocker.
Yadav, along with Sanjay Singh, had been among the prime votaries of the plan to contest as many seats as possible. When the party’s political affairs committee meets, possibly next week, dissension is inevitable over whether Kejriwal’s formula of contesting limited seats with full force would have paid better dividends. Yadav says had the party adopted that formula, it would have never contested Fatehgarh Saheb and Faridkot, both of which it won.