From fear of possible desertions to murmurs on “poor choice” of candidates, the Aam Aadmi Party, which finished third in the capital with 18.1% of the votes, juggled an array of concerns even as it struggled to offer a cohesive response to the debacle.
AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj spelt out the party’s official stand — that it “respects” the mandate of the people. He steered clear of the EVM issue, saying raising any questions at this juncture would be “inappropriate”.
Asked about the erosion in AAP’s vote share, Bhardwaj said people vote “on different parameters” in Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, suggesting that the party will put up a better performance in the Assembly polls slated for early next year.
But not everyone bought into this assessment. At least five AAP MLAs The Indian Express spoke to conceded the need for “course correction”. “Ab aur wicket girega (more MLAs are likely to desert),” a senior office bearer said.
With a vote share less than 16.6%, three AAP candidates — Pankaj Gupta from Chandni Chowk, Brijesh Goyal from New Delhi and Dilip Pandey from North East Delhi — lost their deposits. Another senior leader said the party’s biggest mistake was “not fielding deserving MLAs as candidates”.
“Those who worked on the ground for four years had a connect with people and would have got a much better result. Instead, candidates were selected based only on the opinion of the party chief. On top of that, the Chief Minister did not campaign for close to a month, only managing seven road shows in the last week of the campaign,” the leader said.
Asked if he had any message for the party leadership, AAP’s Hari Nagar MLA Jagdeep Singh, the party’s chief whip in the Assembly, said: “It should take everyone together, that’s the only message I have.”
Kasturba Nagar MLA Madan Lal said the AAP did not fit in the national scene. He said since people “put the nation before self”, AAP’s projection of the Delhi government’s achievements in areas of education and health did not help. “Anti-BJP votes in Delhi went to the Congress as people thought they were better placed to take on the BJP,” he said.
Bawana MLA Ram Chandar said had AAP formed a coalition with the Congress, it could have won at least three seats.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, however, defended the candidate selection. “We gave it our all when it came to candidate selection as well as campaigning. During the last leg, our focus was on door-to-door campaign. This was clearly a Modi wave,” he told The Indian Express.
But grumblings about candidate selection emerged from other quarters as well.
“Through its list, the Congress showed us what we should have done. They put the best possible candidates against us, succeeding in taking away a sizeable chunk of votes. These issues were raised several times but the leadership did not listen,” said another leader.
Tughlakabad MLA Sahi Ram said South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri, who got re-elected on Thursday, reaped the dividends of being connected with the people and working for them. He also said the statehood issue, on which the AAP fought the polls, did not resonate with the public.
Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan said the Congress had misguided Muslims “by convincing them that since it’s a national election, they should vote to make Rahul Gandhi the prime minister as it is in their best interest”.