There is a sense of mystery and intrigue regarding the fortunes of AAP. After its first government resigned, there was a sense of distrust about the reasons for the resignation, and the other parties jumped on that one. However, the second election in Delhi after that (which should have been a cakealk for the BJP given its immense wins in the Lok Sabha polls in Delhi and nationally) was an election in which the AAP won an immense victory (winning more than 50% of the vote and winning 67 of the seats up for grabs is an immense victory).
However, soon after the second innings of the AAP in Delhi, there was an immense shock. The party had 3 main people at the helm – Arvind Kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. Soon, there was news that there was an internal battle going on within the party and that there was not likely to be a reconciliation and resettlement. And so both Yadav and Bhushan were kicked out of the party (along with a couple others) and incidentally also losing the support of 2 out of the 4 MP’s that the party had from Punjab. This was a factor that provided a continuing ground for resentment at the treatment of the duo, and talk of a coterie around Kejriwal and leader kind of culture.
At the same time, the party government in Delhi is suffering from severe constraints. One of the main planks of the party’s campaign was about the Lokpal and about the reduction of corruption in the city. However, the Anti Corruption Bureau was taken away from the control of the AAP, thus taking away the main plank of the fight against corruption. And a running tiff with the LG about who has ultimate power in the city dents the power of the government and also leads to some amount of perception that the party cannot live with constraints, but always searches for reasons about why things are not working (although one major effort has been that any kind of problems regarding law and order is now seen as a problem with the police and not with the state government).
And there is the question of the MLA’s. Some of this is self-inflicted, and some is because of the Modi Government deciding that one way is to attack all the MLA’s and see how to destroy the credibility of the party. The Jitendar Tomar case about a fake degree and the support the party gave right till it was undefensible, the case about the minister who was sacked for taking a bribe and the recent case about Sandeep Kumar and the sex CD / rape case is causing severe blots on the name of the party. After all, these were people selected by the party after due consideration, and for them to be showed in such adverse situation is not good for the name of the party and public perception.
Punjab is seen as a major possible win for the party – the Akalis have little credibility left, the Congress is not really seen as much better and it was supposedly ripe for the picking. However that has now been thrown into doubt because of 2 main factors. An apparent factional fight and ambition of a AAP leader in Punjab – Chotepur leads to hin being implicated in a corruption video and sidelined, and the initial euphoria about the resignation of Navjot Singh Sidhu turns out to be something that shocks the party when the demands are not possible to be met by the party (the party would lose credibility and suffer more factionalism if they agree to make him the CM candidate and give him and his wife both tickets for the state elections); so Sidhu shocks everybody by setting his own front. Depending on the next few months, this front could draw support from the AAP and reduce their chances of coming to victory.
One positive that remains for the party is their electoral base. The party depends on the support base that was typically meant for the Congress – the lower economic classes, Dalits and Muslims. This support base does not really get swayed by these kind of problems; they need to see that the party is working for the benefit and is supposedly honest. What works for the party remains that it is still seen as untainted by what ails the other parties, and the efforts by the Delhi Government in terms of increasing health and education facilities can be a game changer if these are followed through and improvements are seen. The recent flooding of Delhi during the rains was a black mark and should be a reminder that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. It can still succeed, but will need to really work hard at showcasing Delhi as a success model.