CHANDIGARH: With just a year and a half left for the Lok Sabha elections, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in deep waters after winning 20 seats in the Punjab elections this year and four seats in the 2014 general elections. But in the recent municipal polls in Punjab, AAP managed to win just one seat. This poor performance is being attributed to poor coordination between the central and state leadership, infighting among Punjab leaders and no autonomy to the state unit. The party won just one ward in Bholath municipality of Kapurthala, the Assembly constituency of Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Leader of Opposition and AAP leader, of the 414 wards in the state’s 32 municipal councils. AAP could not win even a single ward in the three corporations of Jalandhar, Patiala and Amritsar.
The party’s popularity has been on the wane since the 2014 general elections. Before the Assembly elections in February, AAP leaders had proclaimed the party would sweep the polls by winning 100 of the 117 seats. It won just 20.In the by-lection of Gurdaspur Parliamentary seat in October, AAP finished third with its candidate Maj Gen (retd) Suresh Khajuria garnering only 23,579 votes.
Sources in AAP say all is not well in the party. The state leadership prevailed upon the party high command to contest the municipal and the Gurdaspur by-election, but no central leader came for campaigning. “The reason for the party’s popularity graph going down is that it had claimed it’ll do alternative politics and projected a new ideology to the people. Then it went back on its words, which was not taken in good spirit by the public. There were also allegations of corruption and frequent change in the AAP leadership,” said an AAP leader.
Sources said that despite repeated requests, the central party leadership has not allowed the state unit to open a separate bank account; it uses a joint account in Delhi. This impacted donations from NRIs, who wanted to donate just for Punjab.
Delhi’s deputy CM Manish Sisodia has been made in-charge of Punjab as the party high command believes it cannot rely on the state leadership. After its dismal performance in the Assembly elections, the state leadership had blamed the central party leadership for too much interference—from seat allocation to funds to campaigning. “With Manish Sisodia being made the party’s Punjab in-charge, we expect to gain a lot from his experience and leadership and do well in the future,” a leader said.