The lukewarm response to the road show by AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal at Patiala on Sunday has sent jitters down the party rank and file, which had been buoyed by the response of the electorate in the Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal, the former Delhi chief minister, was in Patiala to canvass for the AAP candidate for the Patiala Urban Assembly segment byelection, H S Adaltiwala.
While officially AAP leaders claim the road show received an ‘overwhelming’ response, several of them, on the condition of anonymity, admitted that the turnout was ‘average’.
“It was anything but overwhelming. We had expected people to turn up in huge numbers but that did not happen. We were wondering whether it was because it being a Sunday most of the shops in the market were shut. But it has certainly got us thinking,” said a AAP leader.
He added that when Kejriwal had come to Punjab earlier during Lok Sabha elections, the people would run after the cavalcade to shake hands with him. This time, he said, while there was enthusiasm, it was not overwhelming.
Several AAP workers blamed it on factionalism within the party. A protest march had been held in the city on Sunday, led by AAP worker Kundan Gogia, who alleged that the party had forgotten the slogan of ‘Swaraj’ and was a party of the elite now.
Jarnail Singh Manu, campaign incharge of Adaltiwala, however said they were satisfied with the crowd Kejriwal managed to pull in. “We have hidden support. People are scared of coming up openly in our favour. They tell us on the quiet that they are with us and they will vote for us in the byelection. They are not coming out openly against the ruling regime as 2.5 years are still left and they have to get their work done but they have assured to send our candidate to the Assembly,” he said. Gogia on the other hand said that the party was drifting from its original ideology and the people were getting disillusioned.
The Patiala Urban segment is a citadel of Capt Amarinder Singh and his family. Even during the Lok Sabha elections when people voted AAP’s Dr Dharamvir Gandhi to Parliament, Preneet Kaur led by a margin of 7,564 votes from this segment. Amarinder had been a MLA from here for the last three consecutive terms.