Despite creating such a buzz, particularly among the young and those looking for alternative politics in much of the country, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) seems to have failed to create even a ripple in West Bengal.
Plagued by defections and allegations of corruption, Arvind Kejriwal’s party is contesting in only four of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. It had initially claimed it would contest for at least a dozen seats.
The constituencies where the Aam Aadmi Party fielded candidates are in the metropolis and its vicinity: Kolkata South, Kolkata North, Barrackpore and Howrah, besides northern Bengal’s Raiganj.
But social activist Mudar Patherya withdrew from the contest in Kolkata South citing health reasons, leaving only four candidates.
Their selection became a contentious issue within the party and created resentment among a large number of members who subsequently either quit or joined the rival Garib Aadmi Party (GAP).
“AAP has been reduced to a ‘tamasha’ (drama) in Bengal mostly because of the central leadership’s step-motherly treatment,” said Kazi Masum Akhter, who was one of the chief organizers of the party before he quit.
“AAP never bothered to create an organizational structure and there is rampant infighting, factionalism and arbitrariness,” he said.
Echoing similar views, former AAP member Mohammad Sirajuddin Sekh, now a GAP candidate in Howrah, charged his former colleagues with corruption.
“Ironically, AAP, which was born out of a crusade against corruption, is now all about money, especially in Bengal. Thousands of people have quit the party in disgust,” Sekh.
According to one volunteer, AAP, which once boasted of recruiting over 150,000 members in West Bengal, has seen an exodus of activists who have either quit or gone dormant.
“When the party leadership is not bothered, why should we? We religiously organised marches and roadshows, but the people in Delhi have chosen to ignore us,” said one AAP activist.
“Kejriwal and other leaders never paid a visit to Bengal despite repeated requests,” he added.
AAP leader Shazia Ilmi admitted during a visit to Kolkata that there was factionalism and warned volunteers about its consequences.