NRIs prove to be AAP’s Achilles heel in Punjab election

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could win only 20 seats across Punjab in the State Assembly polls despite being projected as poll winners as little as two months ago. In fact, despite heavy support from Non Resident Indians (NRIs), the AAP’s performance was disappointing, to say the least. Even in the Doaba region – the bastion of the NRIs, the AAP only managed to win two of 23 seats.

What was the reason for the AAP’s poor showing? Sagarika Ghose, an eminent Indian journalist who analysed the Congress’ victory, writes, “The large influx of NRIs and NRI money, some of it allegedly tainted with Khalistanis only added to the perception that AAP could not be trusted.”

Prior to the poll results, the AAP leaders had claimed that NRIs were supporting the party during the elections. The diaspora wing of the party had launched a campaign ‘Chalo Punjab’. A month ago, on February 19, the AAP had launched a series of social media posts and youtube links thanking the NRIs for their support in the campaign. However, this support turned out to be counterproductive for the party as it proved a polarising factor with the local electorate that Captain Amarinder Singh and the Congress were quick to take advantage of.

The party finished second in the State Assembly with 20 seats but could only get a vote share of 23.7 per cent, less than the Shiromani Akali Dal, which came third with just 15 seats.

A number of AAP supporters who were making arrangements to celebrate their party’s victory in Vancouver and Toronto were heartbroken as the events turned into consolation meetings instead. On Friday evening, they got together in banquet halls but when the AAP’s poor results were confirmed, the attendance started to wane.