The Telegraph
Sunday , January 5 , 2014
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Rift in party over Kejriwal as PM face

New Delhi, Jan. 4: Arvind Kejriwal today declared he would not contest the Lok Sabha elections after a clash in his party over whether he should be named its prime ministerial candidate.

“It would be my dream to see Arvind as the Prime Minister,” his colleague Yogendra Yadav had said in the morning, just ahead of the Aam Aadmi Party’s national executive body meeting to discuss its Lok Sabha strategy.

“People should get a third option to vote apart from Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi,” Yadav said.

The party, which is keen to exploit the momentum generated in Delhi, is planning to contest Lok Sabha seats in most states and said it hoped to announce its candidates before February-end.

But hours after Yadav had spoken, Prashant Bhushan, a key leader of the AAP, contradicted him.

“In a party like the AAP a prime ministerial candidate is not important. Our slogan has been to run the government for the people and with the people’s participation”, Bhushan said. The AAP was against the “personality cult” in established parties, he added.

Unlike Yadav, Bhushan and some others want Kejriwal to focus on delivering in Delhi. As activists, all the present AAP leaders had started off as equals but Kejriwal has emerged as the face of the party. Many of them now fear that the AAP would end up no different from other parties that are a “one-man show”.

“Everybody knows that Arvind Kejriwal is the tallest leader since he is the convener of the party,” Bhushan said. “But people and policies should be focus of the Lok Sabha polls.”

Colleague Sanjay Singh, who was briefing the media with Bhushan on the two-day national executive that started today, realised that differences over the prime ministerial candidate were taking centre-stage and tried to deflect the issue.

“Whether there will be a prime ministerial candidate or not would be dealt with later. This is not the subject of this meeting,” Singh, seated beside Bhushan, said.

Another AAP leader, Kumar Vishwas, echoed Bhushan. “It’s too early to say who will contest elections. At present, Kejriwal is concentrating on Delhi and along with that looking at the party’s strategy for Lok Sabha elections,” PTI quoted him as saying.

In the evening, the week-old chief minister of Delhi declared he would campaign for the general election but not contest it himself. “I will not fight the Lok Sabha polls but will campaign for the party”, Kejriwal said, adding, “out of affection for me, Yogendra Yadav has said that.”

Bhushan said the party would contest the maximum number of seats from most states and present an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. Sources said the AAP plans to contest some 300 of the total 543 Lok Sabha seats across the country.