What next for Kejriwal and AAP?

After its humiliating defeat in Punjab, Goa and now in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) faces a tough challenge ahead to reclaim the lost glory.

Several questions – from whether AAP would tweak its go-alone strategy to will it bring back old AAP hands who left them – arise as the party stares at a possible challenge to the leadership, including Kejriwal.

Though one cannot write AAP’s obituary yet, the recent Rajouri Garden bypoll where its candidate lost his deposit in a sitting seat and the civic poll results indicate that the AAP has squandered its hard-earned political capital based on people-centric politics in less than five years of its formation. The latest drubbing comes two months after its ambition of winning Punjab and Goa Assembly elections took a beating.

The AAP leadership is putting up a brave face by singing the “EVM manipulation” tune for the humiliating defeat but the one question that is troubling the party is the strategy it should adopt to win back the confidence of Delhi voters, who have have already given ample indication to AAP to shed its confrontational politics.

Another demon the AAP, once a middle-class darling, has to fight is its image of leaving the Delhi battle field for greener pastures like Punjab where the party discreetly floated the idea of Kejriwal becoming Chief Minister or fielding Rajouri Garden MLA Jarnail Singh there after making him resign here.

It is also to be seen whether AAP is now willing to do business with other opposition parties. AAP may not be willing to work with Congress but may be ready for a fight alongside the third front parties like the Left, Janata Dal (United) or Trinamool Congress. Kejriwal has already hinted that he wants an alliance of “good people” to fight the BJP when he met CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here last week.

The initial reactions from the AAP leadership appeared to be of stubbornness but the next step of Kejriwal and AAP is keenly watched. It would determine the course AAP, once a middle-class darling, would take to reinvent itself.

The poor show in civic polls in Delhi, where the party was born in November 26, 2012 following a more than one year stunning anti-corruption agitation, has ignited murmurs of dissent in the party already though top leadership is pinning the blame on “manipulation” of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

AAP’s Lok Sabha MP Bhagwant Singh Mann, the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate in Punjab, did not mince words when he questioned the poll strategy and blaming the EVMs for its defeat in Punjab. Others are silent now but it is to be seen how Kejriwal stems the dissent in the party amid AAP leaders claiming that BJP is trying to woo its MLAs. Already one of the MLAs have resigned and joined the party.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald’s website on Apr 26, 2017)

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