Tough time ahead for Kejriwal

New Delhi: The AAP, which emerged as a major political force in Delhi's politics, will have a tough time ahead after facing a humiliating defeat in the city's municipal polls and it will now be a challenge for the party to keep its legislators united.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had come riding on the anti-corruption plank and swept the Delhi assembly polls in 2015 by winning 67 of the 70 seats, received a drubbing in the civic polls, making it clear that the party's popularity has dipped over the years.

That AAP's popularity has slipped was clear right after the latest round of the assembly polls, when it failed to perform in Punjab up to its expectations and drew a blank in Goa. It also finished third, behind the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, in by-election to the Rajouri Garden assembly seat in Delhi earlier this month.

According to the Delhi State Election Commission, the BJP swept the municipal polls winning 181 seats, the AAP got 48 seats, while the Congress was restricted to just 30.

A win in the municipal polls would have been a big morale booster for the AAP, which has national ambitions, and would also have helped the party affirm its claim that people of Delhi were happy with its government's performance in two years in various areas, including heath, education, water and electricity, feel experts.

Political analyst at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) Praveen Rai said the by-poll results were a signal that the AAP's popularity was going down and that the results were "very damaging" for the party.

"The party would now be under tremendous pressure to keep its MLAs united, as they may opt for other options seeing no bright future for AAP. It will be quite a challenge for Kejriwal to keep them united," Rai told IANS.

He also said that the Delhi civic polls results would also strengthen the voices of dissents in the party.

Rai said that blaming electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the BJP's win was merely an excuse, as the AAP did not want to accept the defeat.

He said the way out for the AAP was "introspection" and "engagement" of the party's top leadership with its grassroot workers.

"Kejriwal will have to listen to his MLAs and other party workers to strengthen the party at grassroots. Now AAP government will have to focus on working for Delhi because it is only the performance that matters," Rai said.

The poor performance of the AAP would not only lower the morale of the party workers but also shatter its ambitions to contest assembly elections in Gujarat later this year. 

Political analyst Neerja Chowdhury termed the civic poll results as a "big blow" to the AAP.

"AAP has became more vulnerable now. These results ring an alarm bell for the Delhi government, too. Kejriwal will now have to focus more on Delhi's governance," she told IANS.

Chowdhury speculated that if 21 AAP legislators facing charges of holding office of profit get disqualified, the BJP would spare no effort to topple the AAP government.

"This possibility can't be ruled out," she stressed.

She added that Wednesday's results were set to have a bearing on the ambitions of the party for other states.

"Kejriwal will have to focus on keeping united and strengthening his cadres, especially in states beyond Delhi," Chowdhury said.