The haste to write the obituary of the Aam Aadmi Party is both ironic and premature. It is ironic because you wouldn’t ordinarily waste newsprint and TV time on a party facing political oblivion. Premature because very rarely has a party confined to one state, as AAP was to Delhi, breached the vote share of 20% in another. This is precisely what the political fledgling spectacularly achieved in Punjab in the 2014 general elections.

Therefore, it may not be wrong to say that powerful interests, including the corporate-owned media, wish to clip the wings of AAP, to ensure its raucous campaign against crony capitalism and the development model of the Modi government does not acquire credibility and momentum.

From this perspective, the Intelligence Bureau report accusing civil society groups of working at the behest of foreign donors to subvert India’s economic growth can be seen as an attack, even though unintended, on AAP’s politics. For one, the report mentions Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas, who played an important role in ironing out the recent factional squabbles in AAP. Civil society activism is AAP's specialty – nearly 100 of the over 400 Lok Sabha candidates the party fielded countrywide were civil society activists. Whether or not AAP scales the peak of its national ambitions, its role as a dissident need not get whittled down.

True, AAP’s inability to win even a single Lok Sabha seat in Delhi is decidedly a setback. Yet, it doesn’t face a doomsday scenario it mustered 32.9% of the vote, an increase of nearly 4% over its numbers in last year’s assembly elections. Even more spectacular was AAP’s foray in Punjab, where it astonishingly secured 24.4% and bagged four seats.

It’s crucial to consider the Punjab verdict with some care, because it suggests a political environment particularly conducive to AAP’s growth. For one, it is a state in which the two principal parties, the Congress and the Akali Dal, have been discredited because of their disinterest, or inability, to resolve the grievances of people. These range from declining agriculture productivity to the rampant drug addiction, rising unemployment and environmental degradation.

From its 2014 election experience, AAP can draw ten lessons to create a more robust future for itself.

No. 1: AAP has a greater chance of success in states in which two political parties grapple for power and a Third Front either doesn’t exist, or has limited impact. This is precisely why it grew in Delhi.

In the two-horse states where the ruling party has been in power for years and is perceived to be performing, as in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh, AAP will have to focus on capturing the opposition space. This may appear a formidable task, but the persistent failure of the Congress to initiate popular agitations provides AAP ample scope for this, particularly as a large percentage of its Lok Sabha candidates were civil society activists.

No. 2: AAP must behave as the principal opposition formation outside legislatures.

Partly, the Congress has failed to mount an effective opposition because decades of wielding power have weakened its resolve to take the battle to the streets. But it is also true the Congress can’t mount a credible resistance against the BJP state governments because there’s very little difference between the two parties in their conception of power, ideas of governance, and the economic model to be pursued.

No. 3: AAP should redefine ideas of power and governance and critique the model of development that both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress subscribe to.

AAP’s success in Punjab testifies that the Modi wave did not have a telling impact there, unlike elsewhere in the country. It is possible his appeal was limited because the BJP wasn’t the dominant partner in the National Democratic alliance in Punjab. However, it can also be argued that Modi’s Hindutva persona lacked the magnetic pull witnessed elsewhere because the Hindus are in a minority in the state. Further, non-Hindi speaking states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Odisha also defied the Modi onslaught.

No. 4: AAP has a greater chance of success in areas with substantial numbers of religious minorities. Non-Hindi speaking Indians living outside their home states are more likely to be inclined to AAP.

The qualitative difference between the verdict in Delhi and Punjab was the impact the Modi wave had on the Capital. Despite an increase in its vote share, AAP didn’t win a seat. Yet, it can take solace from its internal survey, conducted nearly a month before the Delhi assembly elections. Even then, a substantial percentage of people intending to vote for AAP had said they would back the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls because of Modi.

No. 5: No wave is permanent. For instance, power cuts in Delhi have already proved people to describe the Modi government as the mombati (candle) sarkar.

Delhi is crucial for AAP, because yet another spell in power could provide an opportunity to demonstrate that it has the capacity to govern as well as to oppose. However, an ebbing of the Modi wave wouldn’t necessarily have to be to AAP’s advantage. It is possible the Congress could recover the lost ground, though past experiences testify that wherever it is relegated to the third or fourth spot in the electoral race, it finds it extremely difficult to stage a comeback. Think Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

No. 6: It can’t afford to relinquish the second spot in Delhi. Therefore, it must continue to challenge the Congress, regardless of many wanting all anti-BJP forces to band together.

In this endeavour, AAP has to retain the unique attributes that distinguish it from other mainstream parties. It must rely on the efforts of volunteers for its campaigns, depend on donations instead of slush funds and corporate money, keep out dynasts, shun muscle-power, and assign to party cadres a predominant role in selecting candidates in each constituency, as it had in the Delhi assembly elections. It must eschew the temptations to succumb to the politics of identity, but, simultaneously, ensure its leadership must be broadly representative of Delhi and India’s social spectrum.

No political party can only thrive on negativity, merely tearing into the government of the day. AAP should return to its idea of swaraj, of devolving power to people. It has already taken this corrective measure, convening jan sabhas to elicit the opinion of people on how the MLAs’ development funds should be spent.

No. 7: AAP cannot relinquish its ideals, even as it works on Lesson No. 3.

Those writing AAP’s obituary point to its abject failure in its effort to become nationally relevant. Delhi and Punjab apart, a mere 2% vote share implies it must expand its base exponentially. Political outfits grow either by exercising power in a manner beneficial to the people or riding on popular disenchantment expressed and consolidated through movements. At the moment, the route to power doesn’t exist for AAP.

Therefore, it cannot become like the Congress or a host of regional outfits, coming alive in the weeks before elections and slipping into slumber at the announcement of results. The existing political outfits have been around for decades, possess a steady vote base, and can consequently hope to return to power because of the ruling party’s misgovernance.

No. 8: To grow, AAP must continue to be a movement for deepening our democracy.

AAP isn’t a pressure group disinterested in electoral politics. It, therefore, requires organisational structures through which it can translate support built through movements into votes. Indeed, the triumph of Narendra Modi was as much a victory of his charisma and the meanings he symbolised as it was about the Sangh’s formidable organisational network. AAP needs to be a structured outfit for overcoming the paucity of funds through labour-intensive campaigns and to create channels of communication with potential supporters who are as susceptible as anybody to the corporate-owned media manipulation of popular perceptions.

No. 9: Build a party structure.

AAP has already begun this through its decision to create booth-level committees. But it needs patience, for parties are not built overnight. Since there is no possibility of a national election till 2019, AAP must concentrate on the string of assembly elections, beginning with those due in Haryana, Maharashtra and Delhi in October.

It will need to identify issues that have local resonance, link them to its national campaign that big business is subverting democracy and emphasise the pressing need to alter the nature of the political class. You need to give AAP another two-three years before writing it off electorally.

But it also brings us to Lesson No. 10: Politics isn’t just about winning and losing. It is also about restoring to the political system its moral equilibrium, of mounting resistance to undemocratic tendencies.