When we talk or hear about political parties, the first two names that pop up instantly in our minds are Congress and BJP. Since independence, many political parties have ventured on the quest to attain political power, but none have been able to match the success enjoyed by the aforementioned two. So when in 2012, a common man launched his political party named ‘Aam Aadmi Party,’ everyone expected it to meet the same fate as the others. But Arvind Kejriwal wasn’t just another ordinary man. He came, he saw, and he conquered and, a decade later, took his party’s status from one of the many regional parties to a national party- a feat not many can boast about.
AAP was founded with the aim of fighting corruption in India’s political system. The party’s formation was a direct response to the widespread corruption and inefficiency that plagued India’s political establishment at the time. Though launched in 2012, the idea for the same was sown around 2010 when Congress’ downfall was overlooked by its main rival BJP and people were seeking a desperate change from the monopolization in the political space. The early years of the AAP were marked by a series of struggles and setbacks. The party struggled to gain traction among the masses owing to its lack of political experience and resources.
In its first electoral outing in 2013, the AAP won an impressive 28 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. The party’s next big test came in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, where it contested over 400 seats across the country. However, it failed to win a single seat, and its vote share was a mere 2%. This defeat was a major setback for the AAP, and many questioned whether it had a future in Indian politics. Despite these setbacks, the AAP persevered, and its fortunes began to change in the run-up to the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. The party focused its campaign on issues such as corruption, communalism, and governance, and its message resonated with the masses. In a stunning victory, the AAP won 67 out of 70 seats, reducing the Congress to a mere 8 seats, and the BJP to 3.
This victory catapulted the AAP to national prominence, and the party’s success in Delhi inspired others to follow suit. After Delhi, Kejriwal shifted his focus to Punjab, where the people were yearning for a change from Congress, BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). AAP’s status as a new party with the motto of fighting corruption and its success in Delhi made it a people’s favourite. However, going into the polls without a CM face, perception of high-handedness by the Delhi high-command and allegations of favouring the Khalistani elements dented AAP’s prospects.
Between 2017-2020, AAP brought some critical strategic changes in the way it functions. It refocused on Delhi and AAP’s achievements in clean governance while also speaking on hot issues in high demand from the public. The strategy paid handsome dividends through a spectacular victory in the 2020 Delhi assembly polls. The AAP has contested several other state elections with varying degrees of success. It formed governments in Punjab and briefly in Goa and emerged as the main opposition in states such as Haryana and Gujarat.
“It is not the benefit that AAP was particularly after. But the fact is that being recognized as a national party only 10 years after being formed is a clear indication that we are here to stay. Opposition leaders have called us one-trick ponies; they have called us a party that can only win in Delhi. We have proved them wrong. Our national ambition is not hidden from anyone. We are in electoral politics to change how things are run, and we have forced other parties to fight elections based on narratives set by us — those of education, health, and work,” said an AAP leader following the party winning the status of National Party.
Today, the AAP is one of the most important political parties in India and is seen as a viable alternative to the traditional political establishment. It has also leveraged technology to its advantage, using social media and digital platforms to connect with voters. Its success is a testament to the power of perseverance and the importance of focusing on issues that matter to the masses.