The Aam Aadmi Party's dream of making it big on the national scene took another hit after all its 29 candidates fighting the Gujarat Assembly polls lost their deposits.
AAP candidates failed to make any impact on the electorate in the western state. Election data reveal that on one seat, its candidate won only 282 votes, and 299 in another.
Party leaders did not campaign in the state, where polls were held in two phases in November and December. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia and Labour Minister and state in-charge Gopal Rai did not canvass for votes in the run-up to the polls.
Though Kejriwal spoke about the flogging of Dalits in Una and the Patidar agitation, his remarks clearly failed to sway the voters.
The Gujarat debacle came after its equally dismal performance in Goa, when 38 of its 39 candidates had their deposits forfeited in the state Assembly elections there.
About two dozen candidates in Punjab faced a similar defeat in the Punjab elections held with the Goa polls earlier this year.
The AAP had said it planned to contest every seat in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the results for Goa and Punjab were declared.
But AAP leaders said the party decided to focus on Delhi after its poor performance in the two states, and the humiliating defeats in the Rajouri Garden by-poll and MCD polls in Delhi.
The plan to contest in Gujarat was then put in cold storage, and revived only after the party won the Bawana by-poll, defeating the BJP.
Though party workers wanted AAP to contest from many more constituencies, the leadership finally zeroed in on 29 seats. But its vote share in the 29 seats was so low that all the contestants lost their deposits.
Candidates in Assembly elections have to deposit a sum of Rs 10,000, which they lose if they secure less than one sixth of the valid votes polled in the constituency.
In an interaction with reporters at the party office last month, Rai had said AAP could have been an alternative in Gujarat but lost six crucial months after the Punjab polls.
While an AAP leader declined to comment on the performance of its candidates, suspended party MLA Kapil Mishra mocked the party on its poor show.
"AAP vote share in Gujarat - 0.003 per cent; NOTA - 1.8 per cent. Surat where Kejriwal did "massive" rally last year, AAP has got 121 votes. Kejriwal was teaching Gujarat how to vote," he tweeted.
AAP's candidate Salim Multani had garnered only 299 votes in Surat East.
But a political analyst did not believe AAP's national ambition had taken a hit.
Sanjay Kumar, the director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said expectations from AAP were so high that most people thought it would perform the way it did in Delhi in 2013 and 2015 -- when it swept the polls.
"They are still young. The performance of other parties like the Samajwadi Party or the TMC outside their states may also not be good. But a party has to keep trying, and this is how one expands," he said.