As party chief Arvind Kejriwal stared out on Sunday at a crowd that filled up Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, he sought to remind his supporters of what the mainstream had said about the anti-corruption movement at its inception three years ago.

“When we were gathered here for the Anna movement in 2011, all the parties made fun of us, and dared us to fight elections,” he said. “Today we have turned the tables on them. Now we get to say: if they have courage, let them come and fight elections in Delhi.”

But while Kejriwal clearly underlined this turning of tables, he did not allude to the other flipping of roles.

Just a few months ago, AAP turned in a relatively disappointing performance in the general election. Although it managed to win four Lok Sabha seats barely two years after it was formed, it was expecting to do better. That it did not was primarily attributed to its decision to step down from the government in Delhi, giving Kejriwal the nickname of bhagoda, or deserter.

He would even later acknowledge that the decision to leave government, ostensibly taken after the Congress-run central government refused to let AAP table its version of the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, had been a mistake and apologised for it.

All around Sunday’s Jantar Mantar rally, which was meant to be a show of strength for the young party, which has had a difficult few months since the election, were posters that attempted to label the Bharatiya Janata Party as the outfit that is running away.

“The party that won seven out of seven seats in Delhi in the Lok Sabha election is afraid to go to polls, and the party that lost all seven is ready to take the stage,” said party leader Yogendra Yadav. “These politicians ruling by the backdoor don’t have the confidence to come out and face the people.”

That line and others, particularly by comedian and AAP parliamentarian Bhagwant Mann, earned plenty of approbation from the large crowd that had gathered, which should give the party some encouragement.

The character of the rally was substantially different from what an average AAP gathering would have looked like before the elections: fewer middle-class people who had simply walked down to Jantar Mantar, a lot more bussed-in supporters who started walking away in the middle of Kejriwal’s concluding speech.

The primary rallying cry at the event came from the fact that the Delhi assembly has been in suspended animation ever since AAP stepped down, with the lieutenant governor claiming he is still waiting to decide whether another government could be cobbled together or whether he should dissolve it and call for fresh polls.

The BJP has openly said it wouldn’t want to waste public funds on an election and has privately been making efforts to form the government, but hasn’t officially informed the LG about its position.

AAP, meanwhile, has realised that it won’t be able to defend another coalition government and so has been insistently calling for elections. On Tuesday, a petition filed by the party is set to come up in the Supreme Court that questions the imposition of president’s rule in Delhi and demands the dissolution of the assembly and fresh elections.

AAP struggled to stay relevant in the immediate aftermath of the Lok Sabha election after it lost all seats in Delhi, with Kejriwal even putting in a much-derided stint in jail that was seen merely as a publicity stunt.

But as inflation has gone up and the capital has begun to face problems with both electricity and water, issues that helped propel AAP to its stunning success last December, the party is starting to see some signs of hope.

“We have no hurry in going for elections,” Kejriwal claimed. “The more time passes, the more seats that are coming to us because of this BJP government.”

Besides inflation and bijli-paani, the party has also decided to take on the BJP on the demand by students for the civil services exam to be conducted in languages other than English, as well as the more familiar concerns faced by auto drivers, e-rickshaw drivers and traders.

The difficulty for AAP, however, is that its policies are more or less similar to that of the BJP on many of these issues. Moreover, unlike the Congress, the BJP has the numbers at the Centre to be able to tackle some of these problems much more directly. And, as Kejriwal openly said at the rally, the BJP can effectively tell the lieutenant governor what to do, so unless the Supreme Court intervenes there need not be elections in Delhi any time soon.

Which would force the AAP to fall back on its original platform: anti-corruption.

“You can say all you want about what they have done since, how they fought in the elections, what else Kejriwal has done, but this I’m telling you simply, when they were in power, we didn’t have to pay bribes,” said Junaid Ahmad, a handicraft worker from Seelampur who was at the rally. “Now once again, you have to grease hands at every checkpoint and with inflation that makes things even harder. Just to handle that, we want them back.”