The party led by Arvind Kejriwal, the man who had shaken Indian politics in the past several months, contested in 426 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats in the just concluded election, more than that of the Congress and BJP, and expected to get a minimum of 100 seats [Read here].
So why an earth-shattering result for the AAP?
This could be a shock for those who were carried away by the AAP phenomenon, but the reality is that the party was destined for this. Here is why:
Rise of AAP a media hype
The rise of Kejriwal and his party was essentially a media hype. He made use of a gloomy situation that prevailed in Indian politics for most part of the UPA II government and disappointment caused by the BJP's failure in carrying out the duty of a responsible opposition in the Parliament. The series of exposes generated an excitement in the media for it used to for people's consumption when there was little happening in a crippled Parliament. The AAP connected well to the popular pulse through the media and looked a viable alternative to both the Congress and BJP.
More hype after Delhi victory
The party put its second big leap forward when it came out with flying colours in the Delhi assembly election last December. The fact that Delhi is at the heart of the country and hence is better placed to gather more focus gave the AAP a better mileage. Kejriwal continued to milk his good time by taking a moral high-ground and even conducted a direct democracy of sort on the question of taking the Congress's support to form the government in Delhi since none of the three contesting parties were in a position to form a government.
Suddenly on the reverse
Kejriwal was going from strength to strength at that moment. But he undid his own rise on the Valentine's Day this year when he suddenly quit the government after a lot of drama on the roads in Delhi in the name of fighting the system. That drastic resignation from the CM's post had a short positive but a long negative impact.
The sudden resignation from the administrator's post not only conveyed a key message about Kejriwal's fickle-mindedness but also reduced his stature in comparison to BJP's Narendra Modi, the four-time chief minister of Gujarat. The young supporters, who were divided between the Kejriwal and Modi camp till this time, began to lean more towards Modi, thanks to his solid build-up to the Lok Sabha poll as against the AAP leader's temporary drama on every second issue.
Besides leadership, also problems with ideology & organisation
If this was the problem with the leadership, the new party had serious problem with its ideology and organisation as well. The AAP never had an ideology to cash in on and it was always banking on the anti-corruption agenda. But once Kejriwal failed to ignite the people's imagination after becoming the chief minister and his leadership became a matter of doubt, his reliability as an anti-corruption crusader also crumbled. The BJP, like a seasoned pro, capitalised on the anti-incumbency mood in a more clinical manner.
The AAP also did little homework before contesting the general elections. It just wanted to cut into the vote-share of the BJP and Congress instead of nurturing its own credibility to win loyal voters. So when Modi launched a fierce attack on the Congress and every other political party based on development-nationalism-democracy-transparency combination, the AAP's one-dimensional agenda looked faded. It had made a cunning effort to shift focus from the civil society towards the political society during and after the Delhi polls, but Kejriwal getting repeatedly slapped in rallies proved that the strategy didn't pay off much.
In terms of organisation too, the AAP wasn't smart in thinking. A party which could learn to walk a little by the time the Lok Sabha election came, the AAP aimed to run through its strong opponents in a vast state like Uttar Pradesh and to be more specific, in Varanasi.
The party never had the organisation to cover a state like UP and with its face Kejriwal deciding to camp in Varanasi to take on Modi, the party had little to show in other parts of the state. The party essentially became a loose federation of private individuals and never had a glue factor to nurture a strong grassroot organisation. The same goes for the 425 seats that the AAP had decided to contest from (apart from Kejriwal). Even the leader himself chose an opponent who could bulldoze him on May 16. By exposing its face, the AAP might struggle to make its presence felt in the next Lok Sabha all the more.
Next BJP? Well, the path is not easy
The BJP had grown from 2 to 120 seats between the 1984 and 1991. Many AAP supporters still believe that the same could happen with it as well. The question is: does the AAP have an organisation, agenda or leadership like the BJP had?