This is the second state election that AAP is contesting in Telangana, but the party’s gateway to South India through the state remains a non-starter.

Wiped out in Telangana polls AAP eyes a long-shot victory in Gram Panchayat elections
news Telangana Elections Saturday, December 15, 2018 - 11:33

After facing a spectacular loss in the recent Telangana polls, the state wing of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) isn't backing down. Though they lost all 41 seats out of 119 they contested in, with the candidates losing their deposits, the party is seriously preparing for the Gram Panchayat elections.

Though this is the second state election that AAP is contesting in Telangana, the party’s gateway to South India through Telangana remains a non-starter. Party officials in Telangana are now pinning their hopes on the upcoming Gram Panchayat elections in Telangana, which are expected in January.

“One has to understand the circumstances under which AAP contested polls in Telangana,” explains Priyanka Kakkar, the party's observer for Telangana elections from Delhi. "The party has been working on the ground actively for just eight months preparing for the Gram Panchayat elections in January but then the Telangana assembly got dissolved prematurely on September 6, six months before end of term and we entered into state election mode,” she added, indicating that the party was unprepared for early elections in the state.

The AAP managed to generate just 13,500 votes among their 41 candidates combined this Telangana election. “We campaigned for just one month and managed that many votes. It's not a figure to be proud about but I consider this a positive for a party that is new and entering South India. Do keep in mind that national parties like BJP and Congress also got a drubbing in Telangana, their vote shares diminishing. Under these circumstances we managed just fine,” added Priyanka.

Series of losses

The loss for AAP in Telangana comes at a time when the party did not fare any better in rest of the states that went to polls in December. The party failed to make a mark in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.

In Madhya Pradesh, the party contested in 208 seats and lost all seats. Even the party's Chief Ministerial candidate Alok Agarwal, who is also the party's state convener, managed to win just 823 votes. In Chhattisgarh, the party contested in 85 seats and 142 in Rajasthan, but no seats were won there either. Punjab remains the only exception where the party has managed to win an assembly seat outside Delhi.

It's at this juncture of back-to-back losses that the proposed grand alliance comes from Congress's Rahul Gandhi, who is trying to woo the AAP to formally join their coalition. Earlier this week, MK Stalin president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam met with Aravind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister and AAP president at Delhi where he requested Kejriwal to drop his "negative stance" against the Congress. Still, the party is yet to show any signs of joining the coalition. Even in Telangana, the AAP stayed away from joining the Congress-led Prajakutami alliance despite an invite.

No Show Kejriwal

As campaigning reached its peak in November, all political parties brought in their heavyweight campaigners to fight the polls, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, but a notable absentee in Telangana elections was Kejriwal. He did not campaign for the other states that went polls either. Only their MLA Somnath Bharti, who facing a domestic violence case by his wife in Delhi, was campaigning for the party all November.

“If we brought Kejriwal to campaign in Telangana and did not get votes it would have reflected badly on him. The need for the hour for AAP is strengthening their party cadre at the grassroots,” said Ramulu Goud, Telangana AAP's state convener. “We are a new party and the public is just getting to know us, it will take time to gain their confidence. People have a good impression about the AAP based on the work by the party in Delhi government. We can only build in grassroot-level if we focus on Gram Panchayat elections. Our cadre strength is low but this election we saw a lot of people joining the party,” he added.

Party insiders say the party lost a lot of its cadre base to the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), headed by M Kodandaram formed earlier this year.

Invisible candidates

Tarun V worked with AAP during the party's 2014 election campaign at Malkajgiri constituency, but soon after the elections, the party went quiet and he lost touch with it. “There were no party activities anymore,” said Tarun, who is an educational entrepreneur and now an inactive party worker.

“They tried to bring in people with a good track record, people who are doing inspiring work in their own domains," said Tarun. The youth observed that none of the AAP party candidates in Telangana are people known to the voters, most of their candidates have no social media presence or have any information about them on the internet. "Their candidates maybe clean but shouldn't a voter be able to know who they are voting for?” asks Tarun.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.