That Arvind Kejriwal was laying the ground for an Aam Aadmi Party rout in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections was apparent in the two surprising statements that he made last week.
While taking to a TV channel in Punjab, Kejriwal expressed his fears over being ‘assassinated’ like Indira Gandhi by his own personal security officers at the behest of the BJP. Soon after that he declared that the entire Muslim vote had shifted to the Congress in polling to the seven Lok Sabha constituencies in the national capital.
Keeping in mind the dismal projections for the AAP be it in Punjab, Haryana or Delhi, the first statement was perhaps intended to deflect from the poll outcome and garner some sympathy in the face of what the Delhi chief minister terms an omnipresent threat from the BJP-led dispensation at the Centre.
Most analysts feel AAP is unlikely to repeat its superb 2014 performance in Punjab, when it bagged an unexpected four seats in the state, as the party is riven with dissension and most of its old-timers have quit. Haryana, where the party had hopes and was in alliance with the Jannayak Janata party, is also likely to disappoint, Kejriwal’s second statement about the Muslim vote was perhaps an admission that the Congress, which AAP had earlier dismissed as inconsequential to Delhi’s voters, had indeed made some sort of a comeback in the city after its 2014 wipeout and 2015 Assembly debacle.
It might also have been said keeping in mind next year’s Assembly elections in Delhi where again AAP is unlikely to repeat its 2015 clean sweep. Kejriwal’s claim would also come in handy to beat the grand old party with over the failed alliance in Delhi.
He had already declared that the Congress would be solely responsible if the BJP-led NDA returned to power at the Centre. Exit poll results across the board predict a near sweep for the BJP in Delhi. Some have given Congress one seat but none for the AAP. Despite the high-pitched electioneering, including a vicious smear campaign against AAP’s east Delhi candidate Atishi, voters seem to have opted for status quo.
Had the alliance between the Congress and AAP fructified, the situation may have been different. The ‘will they-won’t they’ suspense that continued till almost the last day of filing nominations only added to the view that they were not serious about giving the BJP a run for its money.
Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit was dead set against the alliance but the situation called for a statesmanlike approach by the party high command and a willingness to concede space to a junior partner. Though the exact reason for the two parties not joining hands will remain in the realm of speculation, the general impression is that egos triumphed over realpolitik. It was a measure of the political immaturity of the two key players, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal.