The Congress on Saturday swept back to power in Punjab after a decade – with veteran Amarinder Singh set to return as its Chief Minister. The big win turned on its head the BJP's 'Congress Mukt Bharat' slogan, too.
This came in contrast to Aam Aadmi Party’s claims, which through its high-voltage campaign in Punjab, promised winning up to 100 seats. It ended up with only 20 seats.
How do you explain the AAP’s disappointing performance in Punjab? Here are five explanations:
1. Lack of Local Connect and Understanding
A major blooper by the AAP during its campaign in Punjab was the move to superimpose the broom on an image of the Golden Temple, in the youth manifesto of the party.
A political storm had kicked up after Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal demanded an unconditional apology from the AAP for disrespecting the Golden Temple and the Guru Granth Sahib.
Another factor that worked against the party was its lack of connect with Punjab. For all its efforts, AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal remained “foreign figures” viewed by the voters as “outsiders”.
2. AAP’s Campaign Peaked too Early?
The AAP had successfully projected the drug menace as the number one election issue in Punjab – and its signature door-to-door campaign appeared to be working as thousands of people signed up to join the party during its membership drive.
Add to it the confusion within the Congress, and blow to the Shiromani Akali Dal because of the AAP’s drug attack looked set to bring the new entrant to power, but the final results indicate all of it may have happened too early.
What also derailed its chances of coming to power in Punjab was the fact that its door-to-door campaign, street-corner meetings began very early, and later, the party faced a serious cash crunch in the latter stages of its campaign.
3. The Sidhu Debacle
The AAP’s inability to retain a respected Jat Sikh leader known to speak his mind, played against the party’s fortunes in Punjab.
Navjot Singh Sidhu was expected to join the AAP on India’s Independence Day, but he did not agree to their terms and conditions. The hype surrounding Sidhu’s resignation from the Rajya Sabha gave way to a realistic picture of the Sidhu-Kejriwal equation, and it became clear that if the AAP came to power in Punjab, everything would be remote-controlled from Delhi.
4. Inability to Project a Credible CM Candidate
High-profile faux pas on the part of Bhagwant Singh Mann, the party’s face for the CM post, dented AAP’s chances. Mann’s Facebook Live from inside the parliament, and then the drinking allegations made him less appealing to the voters in the state.
Mann claims to have held 500 rallies during the AAP’s Punjab campaign. That, in hindsight, looks to have worked against the party.
5. Tickets for Sale Controversy
Sacking of state convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur exposed the Delhi-Punjab fault lines. Sacked as the Punjab unit chief over corruption charges, AAP leader Chhotepur on Tuesday accused the party’s Delhi leadership of selling tickets for the Punjab assembly polls to undeserving candidates for crores of rupees.
These allegations of sale of tickets dented its anti-corruption plank, and led to revolts and formation of separate fronts. That may have eaten into votes, which otherwise would have gone to the AAP.