After Stunning Debut, AAP Failed to Keep Momentum in 2014

Published: 26th December 2014 11:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th December 2014 11:36 AM   |  A+A-


NEW DELHI: From its 49-day rule in Delhi to its chief Arvind Kejriwal unsuccessfully contesting against Narendra Modi in Varanasi in the Lok Sabha polls where it was handed a virtual rout, the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party saw it all in 2014.

After assuming power on December 28, Kejriwal introduced a host of pro-people measures like slashing electricity tariff, providing 20,000 litres of free water to every household every month and setting up a commission to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The party went on to enjoy considerable support not only of the lower strata of the society, but also the middle class.

AAP leader Somnath Bharti remained in news all along the year in connection with charges of molestation and other offences in a case pertaining to his purported midnight raid in January on a house where some African women were residing.

The case is still going on in the Delhi High Court.

AAP also suffered a jolt when some of its leaders like Shazia Ilmi and volunteers quit the party citing "lack of internal democracy" and alleging a coterie around Kejriwal in the organisation.

Kejriwal's tenure as chief minister also saw his protest outside Rail Bhavan, demanding suspension of police officers in three different cases related to women. This earned him supporters and detractors alike with many calling him "anarchic".

AAP volunteers often claim that during chilly January- February months, there was much warmth in the party office at Hanuman Road in Central Delhi because of the sheer number of people visiting it. This also reflected the popularity of the party and its new-found success, they say.

However, despite the popularity, the turning point of Kejriwal's tenure was his resignation over the Lokpal issue on February 14.

By his own admission, the decision to quit was a bit "hasty" and he should have consulted people before taking the step.

Buoyed by the support from several quarters, the party then took a decision to contest Lok Sabha polls and fielded over 400 candidates.

In keeping with its regular strategy of party big-wigs taking on Opposition leaders head on, Kejriwal decided to contest elections against Modi from Varanasi while the party fielded Kumar Vishwas against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.

But Kejriwal and his party failed to make an impression at the national level, with AAP winning just four states, all in Punjab, and losing all seven seats in Delhi, which it ruled barely three months ago.

During the Lok Sabha polls, the party had claimed that it had secured over 1 crore membership, but it could manage to garner a little more than 1.5 crore votes countrywide.

The real challenge for Kejriwal began after his Lok Sabha debacle because he was not only the target of criticism of opponents outside the party, but also within.

The party which once earned several lakhs of rupees in donations everyday from the time it came to power till the Lok Sabha results, suddenly started receiving less than Rs 2 lakh a day thereafter, indicating the dip in the support for the party.

However, after making some changes within the organisation, Kejriwal pulled up his socks in his bid to recapture Delhi.

He has announced that he will contest the next assembly elections from the New Delhi seat. In the last elections, he had surprised many by defeating the then chief minister Sheila Dikshit by over 22,000 votes from the seat.

As the national capital was without a government for nearly 11 months, Kejriwal kept blaming BJP, which has the highest number of MLAs, for trying to poach his party legislators to form a government.

Now that election could be held anytime early next year, AAP is again try to find its feet in Delhi, fighting a battle for survival in the national capital.

If its wins, it will help rejuvenate the party and its cadre. If it loses, Kejriwal will again be pushed into political wilderness.

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