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23 new faces in AAP’s full list of 70 for Delhi assembly showdown | India News


NEW DELHI: Maintaining its momentum for the assembly elections, Aam Aadmi Party has been first off the blocks in declaring its candidates. On Tuesday, it named candidates for all 70 constituencies in Delhi, which will go to polls on February 8. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will contest from New Delhi while deputy CM Manish Sisodia will be fielded from Patparganj with both having represented their respective constituencies since 2013.

AAP released the list after a marathon meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body, the political affairs committee. It has re-fielded 46 of the 61 sitting MLAs and included 20 new faces besides three in the ones held by BJP. For one BJP-held seat, Mustafabad, the old candidate has been repeated. Eight women candidates have been fielded as compared to five in 2015. The party has repeated all the sitting ministers in the Arvind Kejriwal cabinet.

The outcome will be known on February 11.

Senior AAP functionaries Raghav Chadha, Atishi and Dilip Pandey, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, have been fielded from Rajinder Nagar, Kalkaji and Timarpur assembly constituencies, respectively.

“Best wishes to all. Don’t be complacent. Work very hard. People have lot of faith in AAP and you. God bless,” Kejriwal tweeted in a message to his candidates.

AAP had formed the government with outside support of Congress in 2013 but resigned after just 49 days. It stormed back to office in 2015 with 67 seats. It lost the Rajouri Garden seat to BJP in a 2017 bypoll, and towards the end of 2019, five MLAs – Kapil Mishra, Sandeep Kumar, Alka Lamba, Anil Bajpai and Devinder Sehrawat – were disqualified under the anti-defection law. BJP had four seats in the outgoing assembly.

Party functionaries believe that release of the list by AAP, when other parties are still in the process of deciding on their candidates, shows the party’s confidence. The list contains several names who have recently switched over to AAP from Congress and BSP. Five-time MLA from Matia Mahal Shoaib Iqbal, former MLA from Badarpur Ram Singh Netaji, and former Congress leader Parlad Singh Sawhney, who had won from Chandni Chowk in 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013 before losing in 2015, have been fielded from their strongholds. The AAP list also contains names of some businessmen.

Labour minister Gopal Rai has been fielded from Babarpur, social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam from Seemapuri, transport minister Kailash Gahlot from Najafgarh, health minister Satyendra Jain from Shakur Basti and Imran Hussain from Ballimaran.

The MLA from Dwarka, Adarsh Shastri — grandson of former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri — has been dropped along with 15 other MLAs. After working in different MNCs for years, Shastri had left his high-paying job to join AAP with a mission to change politics and espoused the values of transparency and probity. He won from Dwarka with a big margin in 2015.

AAP has replaced Shastri with Vinay Kumar Mishra, better known as the son of former Congress MP Mahabal Mishra, who joined AAP on Monday. Vinay Mishra had contested the 2013 assembly election from Palam but could get only around 19,500 votes and lost badly.

Many among the dropped MLAs expressed disappointment with the decision of the party. Badarpur MLA Narayan Dutt Sharma has turned a rebel. Sharma launched a scathing attack on Kejriwal and senior leader Manish Sisodia who, he alleged, “have accepted Rs 20 crore in exchange for the induction of Ram Singh Netaji who has been fielded from Badarpur seat.” Neither AAP, nor Netaji reacted to the allegations.

Sharma told TOI he will contest as an independent while a couple of other MLAs who have been dropped said that they will seek the opinion of the people of their constituencies before taking a decision whether they should contest as independents or not. Some of the more bitter ones said that work had not been a criterion for dropping them.

According to party sources, the tickets have been finalized in keeping with the outcome of multiple qualitative and quantitative surveys conducted in all assembly constituencies. AAP assessed performance, public connect and opinion, and winnability of each MLA through the surveys which were conducted by the party and private agencies.

Seeking re-election in Delhi, AAP is pitching the performance of its government and its achievements to outmanoeuvre rivals BJP and Congress in a three-cornered contest. The elections are critical for AAP because it does not have a significant presence outside Delhi except in Punjab. It has devised a catchy slogan — ‘Achhe beete panch saal, lage raho Kejriwal’ — and a report card to woo voters.

The pivot to AAP’s carefully crafted approach is Kejriwal, who has undergone a significant image transition in the past seven months. Known as an agitationist, Kejriwal has supported the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens from a distance. He has refrained from directly attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and refused to get drawn into debates over the Centre’s policies and issues. AAP has roped in political strategist Prashant Kishor’s consultancy firm, I-PAC, for the polls.

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