Be upbeat, smile, and go back to people. This was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s message to AAP workers, while conceding that the party “failed to convince” people to vote for it in the Lok Sabha polls.
“How’s the josh?” Kejriwal asked, as he began addressing the gathering of workers and volunteers at the Punjabi Bagh club Sunday. The AAP national convenor asserted that his party will return to power in 2020 with a mandate bigger than the 2015 one, when the party had stunned the Congress and BJP by bagging 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi.
Striking a reconciliatory tone, Kejriwal also congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his election victory and hoped that the incoming Union government and the Delhi government will “work together”.
“A few supporters are appearing a little upset, but there’s no reason to be upset when the entire country is praising our candidates and hard work. Now, go back to people and tell them that the bada chunav (general elections) is over, chota chunav (state polls) is here,” Kejriwal said.
Topping the list of issues which were identified by him as factors behind the poll debacle was the “wave” that was sweeping across the country, from which Delhi was “not insulated”.
“We will have to understand why we fared poorly. There was no negativity against you (AAP) in Delhi. People were praising your work… Then what explains the result?
“One of the reasons is the kind of situation that prevailed in the country, and Delhi was no exception. The wave touched Delhi as well. And for many, the election was about Modi and Rahul (Gandhi),” Kejriwal said.
The CM, his deputy Manish Sisodia, AAP Delhi convenor Gopal Rai and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh — speaker after speaker emphasised that the party will once again dominate in the Assembly polls.
“We could not make the people of Delhi understand why they should vote for us in the general elections. But people say ek baar chota chunav aane do, saare kasar poori karenge,” Kejriwal said, expressing confidence that the party will romp home based on its performance in its current term.
However, Kejriwal did not address the contentious issue of the protracted negotiations of the party with the Congress for an alliance, which has been identified by Rai as one of the factors behind the loss.
On Sunday, Rai went one step ahead and announced from the dais — in the presence of the entire top leadership — that the AAP will never go for any alliance in the future. “Our supporters from across the country and the world have got in touch. Most of them made it clear that talks on coalition led to losses. Whatever we tried was for the country’s interest, not to get our MPs elected. But I want to convey the message from the workers to the leadership present here — we will fight, lose, die, win, but will never go for any alliance. We will fight on our own strength,” Rai said.
Invoking Anna Hazare in his speech, Kejriwal said the veteran social activist had told him that one must have the strength to withstand abuses and insults in public life. “I feel that people of Delhi will ensure that we break the record of 54% vote share we got in 2015. Don’t be upset, smile karke dikhaiye. Go to the people and prepare for 2020,” the CM said.
Rai also urged the MLAs and workers to resolve “differences” and work unitedly to ensure the party’s success. “If we have come down to 18% vote share from 54, we can very well go back to 56%,” Rai said.