LS poll results compound AAP's woes

LS poll results compound AAP's woes

New Delhi | The AAP's poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls further deepens the crisis it is battling since the arrest of its tallest leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, as the party now stares at probably the most challenging phase in its 12 years of existence.

Of the 22 seats it contested across Punjab (13), Delhi (4), Gujarat (2), Assam (2) and Haryana (1), the party tasted success only in Punjab where it won three seats.

It had high hopes from Delhi too, where the party was formed in 2012, but it drew a blank, losing all the four seats it contested, even though it managed to narrow the margin of defeat compared to the 2019 elections.

The results proved the AAP's alliance with the Congress in Delhi, Gujarat and Haryana might not have helped Kejriwal's party.

The three seats the AAP got in Punjab -- Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer won from Sangrur, Raj Kumar Chabbewal from Hoshiarpur and Malvinder Singh Kang from Anandpur Sahib -- are an improvement from the 2019 when it won only Sangrur.

However, this result is not what the party was expecting. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had said they would win all the 13 seats Punjab, a state which voted for his party overwhelmingly in the 2022 assembly polls.

In Gujarat, where the AAP contested Bharuch and Bhavnagar seats, the party's prospects were dented as their star campaigner and crowd-puller Kejriwal was in jail. In Kurukshetra (Haryana), AAP candidate and state president Sushil Gupta went down to the BJP's Naveen Jindal.

His defeat also means the AAP will be going into the state elections later this year with momentum not on its side.

Hamstrung by the arrest of its convener Kejriwal on March 21, a week after the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll schedule, the party had launched its campaign around the theme 'Jail ka jawab vote se' to generate a sympathy wave.

However, the voters were not swayed by the strategy of presenting Kejriwal as a leader who has been wronged for fighting against alleged "dictatorship" of the BJP.

The AAP now finds itself at a crossroads: who will hold it together at a time when its senior leaders are in jail -- former Deputy CM Manish Sisodia and former health minister Satyendar Jain are also arrested in different cases -- and when it is mired in controversies related to the Swati Maliwal case. Who will steer it out of the politically challenging phase the party finds itself in now?

With Kejriwal's standing dented as a leader, the question will also be raised if he could continue to govern Delhi from the jail, and for how long?

Sunita Kejriwal, whom the CM earlier described as a messenger between him and the party leaders as well as the people of Delhi, may assume a more active political role.

The unimpressive performance in Punjab weakens Bhagwant Mann's position too, and comes as a jolt to the party ahead of assembly polls in Delhi early next year. The party registered landslide victories in Delhi in 2015 (winning 67 out of the 70 seats) and 2020 (62 seats).

AAP leaders claimed Kejriwal 50 days' absence from active campaigning due to his arrest harmed the party's prospects.

"It was a major factor as the Delhi chief minister could campaign only for three weeks after the Supreme Court granted him bail. He is the most prominent face of the party. And we sorely missed him during campaigning," a party leader said, requesting anonymity.

Yet, the party tried to put a brave face. "We contested the polls in adverse circumstances... In Delhi, we gave strong fight to the BJP and the margins are narrow this time (compared to 2019)," AAP Delhi state convener Gopal Rai said.

The AAP and Congress had joined hands under the INDIA bloc in a bid to prevent split of votes against the BJP. However, their seat-sharing experiment could only lower the margin of defeat.

In 2019, the BJP won all seven seats with huge margins. The votes polled by the BJP were higher than the joint votes of the AAP and Congress candidates.

The loss of AAP and Congress in Delhi also puts a question mark on the effectiveness of the alliance. There were some doubts already on the synergy between their grassroots workers and their campaign.

"It was expected that Congress and AAP voters in different constituencies would vote for one another. The margin of votes with which BJP the won means it did not translate fully on the ground" a senior Delhi Congress leader claimed.

After being released from Tihar on May 10, Kejriwal campaigned for Congress candidates, holding roadshows for its nominees in the North West, Chandni Chowk and North East seats.

On the other hand, no top Congress leader, including Rahul Gandhi, campaigned for AAP candidates. Gandhi held election meetings for Congress candidates in Delhi though.

Congress leader Sachin Pilot addressed a poll meeting in support of AAP candidate Sahi Ram in South Delhi and AAP Delhi convener Gopal Rai was present during the nomination of Congress candidates.

The BJP in its election campaign focused on attacking Kejriwal, trying to dent his image on the issue of corruption -- the alleged liquor scam and the alleged irregularities in the renovation of the his official residence and turning it into a 'Sheesh Mahal' -- while neglecting problems of people like water supply issues and air pollution among others.

The AAP's performance in Punjab also dented the party's hopes of playing any significant role in case the INDIA bloc forms the next government at the Centre.

Court to pass order on July 9 on taking cognisance of ED charge sheet against Delhi CM Kejriwal

New Delhi | A Delhi court is likely to pass on July 9 its order on whether to take cognisance of a supplementary charge sheet filed by the ED against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the excise policy-linked money laundering case.

Special Judge Kaveri Baweja, who was scheduled to pass the order on Tuesday, deferred it for July 9, saying the documents were voluminous and the court needed time to make a decision.

The judge had reserved the order after hearing arguments, including those by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which said it has sufficient evidence against the accused to prosecute him. The ED has also named AAP as an accused in the charge sheet.

The court, meanwhile, is likely to pronounce its order on Kejriwal’s application seeking bail on medical grounds on Wednesday.

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