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Will Aam Aadmi Party bounce back in Delhi?

On a sunny winter day, exactly five months ago, Arvind Kejriwal became Delhi’s 7th chief minister, and delivered a message of hope to thousands of people at Ramlila Maidan.

After the drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, resignation of senior colleagues, and a series of flip-flops, hope is what his now-demoralised party is holding on to. The Aam Aadmi Party has now started working on ‘Mission 100 days’ to win back Delhi.

“Elections in Delhi could be held along with Maharashtra and Haryana in October. We have appointed observers in all 70 assembly constituencies. Feedback is coming. An analysis of the poll debacle is on,” said a senior leader.

Despite a 0-7 drubbing, AAP’s vote share increased from 29.3% in the 2013 assembly polls to 32.9% now. All seven candidates stood second, relegating the Congress to a poor third. Assembly segment-wise balloting puts the BJP ahead in 60 of the 70 seats.

The party is now reading the fine print. “We fared better in areas such as RK Puram and Okhla. But we need to work harder in middle-class constituencies such as Greater Kailash and Malviya Nagar,” he said.

The party thinks Kejriwal may not be as big a hero as he was last winter but he still has no match. “Both the BJP and Congress have no strong CM candidate,” he said.

Gopal Mohan, who managed Kejriwal’s poll campaign in New Delhi and Varanasi, sees hope. “As many as 20% of all those who voted for BJP in the LS polls are saying they voted for Modi but will support AAP during the assembly elections,” said the IIT alumnus.
“Even if that doesn’t hold and there is only a 10% swing, AAP’s vote share will still go up to 43% and BJP’s will go down to 36,” he said.

Political scientist Ravi Ranjan says even the BJP has acknowledged AAP is still a political force in Delhi. “Modi chose four ministers from Delhi-NCR. All of them defeated potential AAP leaders.”

He says BJP’s victory in the LS polls will be a factor. “But we shouldn’t forget people will vote differently in assembly elections because of local issues,” he said.
The party has decided to go to people again with the promise of “cheap electricity, free water and a corruption-free administration”. MLAs are holding mohalla sabhas to discuss funds should be spent. Volunteers are going door-to-door, justifying Kejriwal’s decision to go to jail.

“But a lot will depend on who will be BJP’s CM candidate since Harsh Vardhan has shifted to the centre. It would be interesting to see how the NDA government at the Centre reacts to problems in Delhi,” Ranjan said.

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