Two days back, the exit polls in Punjab projected a close race between the Congress and the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party. But that – as it emerged on counting day on Saturday – wasn’t meant to be.
The Congress remained way ahead of the ruling SAD-BJP combine and the AAP right from the time counting began. The incumbent Akalis weren’t decimated as was predicted, meaning even lesser number of seats for AAP.
Confident of taking power in Punjab – or at least emerging as the main Opposition in the Assembly – Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence in Civil Lines was buzzing with people on Saturday morning.
9:30 am: Balloons, Music and Party Time!
At about 9:30 am on Saturday morning, Kejriwal’s residence was in party mood, complete with balloons, music and large LED TV screens. The sentiment in the air was that of celebration.
AAP National Executive Kumar Vishwas talked about victory – at least in Punjab, if not Goa.
10:30 am: A Last Ray of Hope
By 10:30 am, the trends started becoming clear. The exit polls were proven wrong – the common man’s party was lagging far behind in Punjab. In Goa, it was nowhere in the race.
By then, I entered the room where all the AAP leaders were talking to TV channels. They were hopeful, even in the face of Congress having taken a considerable lead in Punjab.
11 am: Lone Dog Graces Red Carpet
By 11 am, the mood outside Kejriwal’s house had witnessed a sea change – the music had stopped, top party leaders had disappeared, and a lone dog was witnessed gracing the carpet outside.
1 pm: Balloons Start Coming Off
By 1 pm, the Congress was leading with 77 seats in Punjab. The AAP was at a disappointing 22. In Goa, the AAP had managed to stake claim over only one seat.
The balloons outside Kejriwal’s house, keeping with the grim and sombre mood, started coming off.
Meanwhile on Twitter...
While a drowning silence had enveloped Kejriwal’s house, Twitter was abuzz with memes on AAP’s resounding failure.
My WhatsApp was flooded with reactions and views on the party’s performance. A friend shared one of the comments she read somewhere on social media: “Arvind Kejriwal needs to understand that it is not a protest movement anymore, he needs to organise a party now.”
In the 2014 Punjab elections, AAP had a 24.4% vote share. As of 1:46 pm on Saturday, the party had a 23.7% vote share in the Assembly election.
It’s safe to say that there are many lessons for the party.
With the Gujarat Assembly elections around the corner, will they pay heed to the janta’s clear mandate?