AAP's dismal performance puts question mark on its relevance in INDIA bloc

Results diminished Kejriwal's credibility as someone who can make a difference

INDIA-POLITICS-VOTE-KEJRIWAL Bleak future: Arvind Kejriwal at AAP headquarters before returning to prison | AFP

The Aam Aadmi Party might be taking solace in the INDIA bloc’s impressive performance in the Lok Sabha elections, but the party seems to have little to cheer about as the results indicate that its appeal among voters has diminished. Of 22 seats the party contested in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Assam, it won just three―all in Punjab, where it is in power.

The defeat was felt the worst in Delhi, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was released by the Supreme Court to campaign for 21 days, failed to make an impact. The AAP fought on a seat sharing arrangement with the Congress (4-3) but neither could win any and the BJP repeated the clean sweep. “Delhi has a set pattern of voting for Lok Sabha and assembly elections and the people stuck to it,” said Sandeep Pathak, AAP’s national general secretary (organisation). The AAP’s vote share, however, increased from 18.2 per cent in 2019 to 24.14 per cent, while the vote share of both the BJP and the Congress dropped a few notches.

“The corruption charges against Kejriwal and his ministers have not been taken lightly by the people of Delhi and this is one of the main reasons why the party could not perform in the elections,” said Sanjiv Ranjan, assistant professor at Motilal Nehru College. The lack of coordination between the workers of the alliance parties and the inability to convince the people that the two bitter rivals got together to fight the BJP also worked against the INDIA bloc.

In Punjab, the AAP and the Congress fought separately―the former won three seats and the latter seven. Although the AAP hoped to cash in on Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s freebie model of governance, unfulfilled promises and inaccessible legislators spoiled the plan. The party’s vote share fell to 26 per cent, from 42 per cent in the assembly elections in 2022.

The noise that the AAP’s campaign made clearly did not match the outcome. And the disappointing performance has put a question mark on its relevance as a significant player in the INDIA bloc, especially when other regional parties have performed exceptionally well.

Although the AAP maintains that its main agenda and reason to join the alliance was to defeat the Modi-led government, the result has, to some extent, diminished the credibility of Kejriwal as someone who can make a difference nationally. “People of Delhi have shown that at the centre they would not prefer someone like Kejriwal as the head of the government,” said Ranjan.

With Kejriwal back in jail and no other leader in the fray big enough to step into his shoes, it is time for the AAP to go back to the drawing board. A lot about the party’s future will depend on how long Kejriwal remains in jail, as the Delhi assembly elections are round the corner.