After winning assembly elections in Delhi, AAP has not tasted any major electoral success anywhere but it has somehow kept itself happy by imaging that is helping defeat BJP. Kejriwal was so happy that he hugged Lalu Yadav, whom he had attacked as corrupt politician, after BJP failed to win Bihar assembly elections, and recently he was seen again dabbling in Gujarat assembly elections asking people to defeat BJP.
AAP finding a common cause with Congress is not shocking as such. The parties compliment each other, right from the inception. While the Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement got support from BJP, it actually made sense for Congress to have a political party like AAP.
In 2011-2014 while Narendra Modi was on the rise and Congress voters were getting disillusioned, it was important for Congress to temporarily park these voters somewhere and not let them go to BJP for good. Among the traditional Congress voters who got disillusioned between 2011-2014, a lot were those who didn’t want to go near BJP, but had little hope from Congress. AAP became the natural alternative for them. The “ecosystem” fed and nurtured by Congress too backed AAP and Kejriwal to the fullest and the party has a brilliant debut in 2013 and a dream run in 2015 Delhi assembly elections.
AAP was jolted by a big failure in 2014 general elections between the above two successes, and ideally Congress would want AAP to collapse at this point and claim back the space it lost in Delhi elections. However, Congress gave the anti-BJP voters and the ecosystem no hope as the party kept losing one assembly elections after another post the 2014 general elections. AAP continued to remain a hope and it continued to receive full support from the Congress-left ecosystem.
The mainstream media – a central part of this ecosystem – was instrumental in creating ‘Mahaul’ in AAP’s favor by creating fake ‘Christians under attack’ narrative before the 2015 Delhi assembly elections. Congress too silently let AAP takeover its loyal vote bank, and as a result AAP decimated BJP. The ecosystem was suddenly filled in with hope that BJP and Modi could be defeated.
Almost as a thanks-giving exercise, AAP supported Congress-RJD-JD(U) coalition later that year, which trumped BJP in Bihar purely on mathematics. The ecosystem was ecstatic.
However, the assembly elections in 5 states earlier this year changed a lot of things, especially for the AAP. Despite the ecosystem support, it failed to create any impact in Goa while it lost in Punjab as well where it was supposed to register a Delhi like victory.
AAP may think it still performed well in Punjab as a debutant party, but that will be fooling itself. It was a make or break election for the party. It was an election that was going to decide if the Congress-left ecosystem would continue to put their hope in the party and Arvind Kejriwal. Imagine if AAP had won Punjab, it would have emerged as the prime challenger to BJP beyond Delhi. AAP lost that huge opportunity.
To make things worse, Capt Amarinder Singh ruthlessly went after Kejriwal, including on Twitter, a platform that was Kejriwal’s playground till sometime back. AAP supremo was defeated at home ground. That was a turning point. AAP may not realize it, but the ecosystem has realized that AAP’s utility is now over.
And this change in the attitude of the ecosystem is visible. The mainstream media started asking questions to AAP government. This was unexpected development for AAP and panicked Kejriwal & Co started hitting out at media. The party also started peddling conspiracy theories about EVM hacking to keep itself relevant.
Now the party finds itself further irrelevant in the Gujarat elections. Arvind Kejriwal asked people to defeat BJP in the polls, but he hardly received any acknowledgement or note of thanks from any Congress leader for this ‘help’. If Congress wins Gujarat elections, most certainly Kejriwal is not going to get a chance to hug Rahul or even Hardik Patel on the stage, the way he hugged Lalu.
Basically, Congress has decided to assert itself for the 2019 general elections and they want to reclaim the political space they had given to AAP on lease. Congress is master at making and breaking careers of activists and politicians when it suits the party. Kejriwal could be the next in line of these use-and-throw politicians if Congress gets its mojo back.
Congress has put all its energy in winning Gujarat assembly elections with Rahul Gandhi himself leading from the front. If they win it – thus proving all exit polls wrong – it will be a huge shot for Congress as well as Rahul Gandhi. The ecosystem too will be convinced that only Congress and Rahul Gandhi can take Modi on. Unlike Punjab, which could be argued to have been won more by Amarinder Singh than by Congress or the Gandhis, Gujarat will be all about Rahul Gandhi.
With Congress on top, Kejriwal will be dumped even by those few remaining in the ecosystem who are still backing him. If Kejriwal and AAP want to remain relevant for the ecosystem, they must pray that BJP wins Gujarat, and BJP wins big, so that they continue to give some ‘hope’ to the anti-BJP and anti-Modi forces.
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