AAP unveils Lok Sabha election candidates list


gsr-65748New Delhi: The popular support from the core constituency of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may increase with the party’s Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal resigning, according to political analysts even as the party on Sunday moved briskly to announce its first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha election.

The first list of 20 candidates prominently features its popular faces such asKumar Vishwas and Anjali Damania as well as surprise entries like psephologist Yogendra Yadav and activist Medha Patkar.

Manish Sisodia, a senior party leader and former minister in the Arvind Kejriwal-led cabinet in Delhi, told reporters on Sunday that poet-turned-politician Vishwas would take on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the Gandhi bastion of Amethi and Patkar would contest from Mumbai North-East.

Yadav, one of the key strategists of the party, will contest from Gurgaon in Haryana, where the AAP is going to launch its Lok Sabha campaign next week. Recently inducted former journalist Ashutosh will contest from the Chandni Chowk constituency in Delhi against lawmaker and cabinet ministerKapil Sibal of the Congress party.

While the AAP’s first list did not mention Kejriwal, probables such as bankerMeera Sanyal will contest from South Bombay against Congress heavyweight Milind Deora, and senior advocate H.S. Phoolka will take on Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari in Ludhiana.

Kejriwal and his cabinet resigned on Friday after 49 days of taking charge of the first ever non-Congress-non Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Delhi. The immediate trigger for the decision to resign was the defeat of a resolution to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly.

While the party over the weekend defended its act by terming it as a “necessity”, it also sought to announce a clear strategy for its general election campaign that Kejriwal is expected to kick off on 23 February from Haryana.

Experts feel that while the development would help the 15-month-old party consolidate its support base over its dominant issue of anti-corruption, they also caution that the party may be doing it at the cost of upsetting the crucial middle-class voters.

“It is going to go well in their favour. In a way they have one more extra point on them to talk about. Had they not resigned, they would have continued with their old rhetoric, but now they can instead say that it’s not only the political parties but also the corporates who are against them,” Sanjay Kumar, a New Delhi-based political analyst, said.

Kejriwal’s government lodged a first information report (FIR) againstMukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance India Ltd (RIL), accusing his company of conspiring with some members of the government to create an artificial shortage of gas in the country and raise prices of gas produced in the Krishna-Godavari basin. Keriwal sought to link his FIR with the Congress and the BJP coming under pressure and “fearing” his party in power.

Columnist and political analyst T.V.R. Shenoy feels that even as a section of voters may feel that Kejriwal’s move was “dishonest”, it will not affect the AAP’s electoral prospects.

“This is clearly a political move. They have sacrificed their integrity and honesty to plan an electoral victory for them. However, it will still not hurt their electoral prospects,” Shenoy said. “What they have done (resignation) will electorally help them in Delhi and areas around the capital, but it may not help them anywhere else,” he said.

While the AAP dented the Congress party’s tally as well as its traditional voting blocs in the Delhi election, Sanjay Kumar said that in the crucial general election, the party is likely to hurt the BJP more than the Congress.

“In the initial stages, it was alright to say that the AAP was hurting the Congress more. However, the AAP will take away more urban seats, and so any gain for the party from here will come from the losses of the BJP,” he said.

The party is, however, convinced that the development will not hurt the middle-class votes, which was critical both in its early stage as an anti-corruption movement and later in building its campaign for the Delhi election in the form of volunteers and donors.

“My overall sense is that the middle class is not disillusioned because we quit the government. In fact, our stand is clear that the Congress and the BJP colluded to act against the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly just as they did at the time of the Lokpal Bill two years ago,” Atishi Marlena, a spokesperson of the AAP, said.