The one-and-a-half-year-old Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) poor performance in this year’s parliamentary elections in India was a big letdown for the anti-corruption party’s members and its leader Arvind Kejriwal. One of the party’s newly elected parliamentarians, Punjabi actor-comedian Bhagwant Mann, is doing his best to keep spirits high. Following are excerpts from two phone conversations with India Insight about the future of the AAP.
(This interview was conducted in Hindi and translated into English)
Q. Why didn’t the “Modi wave” work in Punjab?
A. There was nothing like a Modi wave in Punjab. Punjab is already affected a lot by drugs and unemployment. So Punjab’s problems are not about [BJP slogan] “Ache din aane waley hain” (“Good days are coming”) or “Har Har Modi” (Hindu religious chant, modified for Modi). Punjab wanted a third alternative, it wanted to get out of the two-party mill – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress.
Q. What is your reaction to the party’s performance in Punjab and the rest of the country?
A. In Punjab there were one-two seats where our defeat margin was less than 15,000, otherwise we were hoping for six to seven seats. But we got a vote bank. Example – Mr Phoolka was defeated from Ludhiana but won in its five assembly constituencies (that fall under the parliament seat). The party has got an oxygen cylinder in Punjab.
The party came second in Delhi and increased its vote share (from what it got in the Delhi assembly election last year). You would ask why [we] didn’t win seats – that’s because the Congress is finished now. Now it will be a two-party system in the country – BJP and AAP. So we take it positively. The big thing is that new parties sometimes take time to succeed but they get the bigger parties to reset their agenda. The BJP and Congress did that after Delhi election, right? Earlier they just used to wave byes from helicopters … now haven’t they landed on the ground?