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A Formidable Force Once, AAP Now fights an Existential Battle in Punjab After Civic Poll Debacle

File photo of AAP leader Bhagwant Maan

File photo of AAP leader Bhagwant Maan

The party fielded over 1,600 candidates for the polls. Of the 351 wards up for grabs in seven municipal corporations, the AAP managed to win in mere nine wards.

In 2017 when Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made its debut in Punjab politics, its emergence as the main opposition party ahead of Shiromani AKali Dal (SAD) left many impressed. Four years down the line, the civic body results in the state have raised questions over the party's capability to be a force to reckon with in the Punjab's political landscape.

Consider this. The party fielded over 1,600 candidates for the polls. Of the 351 wards up for grabs in seven municipal corporations, the AAP managed to win in mere nine wards. In the 109 Councils and Nagar Panchayats, the AAP won 50 out of the 1,600 odd wards. In both, the AAP won lesser wards than even Independents.

What is more disappointing for the party is that it had a huge farmer's agitation to piggy ride upon but failed to capitalize on the farmer's anger. The party has gone through turbulent times in last few years. Many of its senior leaders have deserted the party, some even forming their own fronts. Its number in assembly went down from 22 legislators in 2017 to 13 now.

The AAP though is not considering the civic body debacle a major loss, senior leaders of the party pointed out that they were contesting the civic polls in the state for the first time. Leader of Opposition Harpal Cheema said, "This is the first local elections that the AAP is contesting in Punjab, learning from our drawback we will work towards a win in the forthcoming assembly election."

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AAP leaders even tried to downplay the fact that it could not encash politically on the farmers stir. "It was never a political issue for us. Our party will continue to support the farmers and their agitation because it is part of their right," said Cheema.

Party leaders boast of making a mark despite the numbers weighing heavily against them. "This election was the chance for AAP to make its mark, with SAD being seen as a party with lost cause and the wind against the BJP, it was only easier for AAP to announce its arrival at the local level," said a senior party leader. He admitted that perhaps an 'overdrive' on the farmer agitation and failing to connect with them cost the party.

Party MP Bhagwant Mann, however, said that AAP was encouraged by its performance and will work harder to win 2022.

first published:February 18, 2021, 14:16 IST