AAP names poll candidates
The Aam Aadmi Party declared candidates for six of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats on Saturday, a day after Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit reaffirmed her party’s unwillingness to ally with the state’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party.
However, asked what the party might do if the Congress changed its stance, AAP Delhi unit convener and minister Gopal Rai said: “We will examine any situation in the future.”
Rai appeared to hold the Congress responsible for the absence of a tie-up.
“In Delhi, too, there was a proposal from the grand alliance (of Opposition parties) that the votes not be divided (and) hence the Congress, which is part of the grand alliance, and the AAP jointly fight the elections here,” he said.
“But despite all efforts at a meeting in (Nationalist Congress Party veteran) Sharad Pawarji’s house after the grand alliance rally on February 13 at Jantar Mantar, where our national convener Arvind Kejriwal was present, Rahul Gandhiji openly refused to ally (with the AAP) and said our state committee was not ready for it.”
Rai went on: “We thought there might be a rethink but the manner in which Delhi (Congress) state president Sheila Dikshit refused to ally (with the AAP), after a meeting of their senior leadership, (prompted) the party to decide that since there was very little time left, we must launch our campaign.”
After a meeting of the state Congress leadership at her residence on Friday, Dikshit had told reporters: “(An) alliance was also discussed and nobody seems to be in favour of it.”
A source from a third party, who was at Pawar’s home during the earlier Opposition meeting, told The Telegraph: “Mr Kejriwal repeatedly told Mr Gandhi in front of the other leaders that they needed to align themselves to defeat the BJP. Mr Gandhi consistently maintained that he would have to talk to his state unit.”
Saturday’s announcement by the AAP is being seen as a tactic to pressure the Congress, which is yet to name its own candidates.
An AAP source said the party’s demand to retain its four seats in Punjab had run afoul of the state’s Congress chief minister, Amarinder Singh.
The source also claimed that the Congress was willing to settle for three seats in Delhi if it was additionally allowed to choose a prominent (outside) candidate for one seat who would be supported by both parties.
Kejriwal has publicly requested former BJP minister Yashwant Sinha to contest.
Another senior AAP leader told this newspaper said: “We may see friendly contests in some seats with the Congress.”
The AAP has named all its constituency-in-charges, appointed in June last year, as candidates.
Party national secretary Pankaj Gupta has been nominated for Chandni Chowk and Brijesh Goyal, national convener of the AAP-backed Chamber of Trade and Industry, for the New Delhi constituency.
The other nominees are the party’s litigation-in-charge Raghav Chadha (South Delhi), political affairs committee member Atishi (East Delhi), former Delhi unit chief Dilip Pandey (Northeast Delhi) and former BJP lawmaker Guggan Singh (Northwest Delhi).
Although the Congress was wiped out in the 2015 Assembly polls in Delhi, the party got 21.09 per cent of the votes in the 2017 municipal polls. The AAP, now the main Opposition in the three municipal corporations in Delhi, got 26.23 per cent while the BJP got 36.23 per cent.
The AAP is the only party among the three whose vote share has dropped rapidly since 2015. The BJP holds all the seven Lok Sabha seats in the capital, and the AAP’s campaign has focused on accusing the party of reneging on its promise of full statehood for Delhi.