Delhi Elections Round the Corner, AAP Shifts Focus to Picking the Right Faces for Poll Battle

CNN-News18

New Delhi: With Delhi Assembly elections round the corner, the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party — always the first mover — is already in poll mode. Party chief Arvind Kejriwal wasted no time after the AAP’s drubbing in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections and among other things, ordered his MLAs to intensify their people-to-people contact.

While the party is expected to repeat most of its 2015 candidates, who are also MLAs, all eyes are on those seats where the party has disqualified its members and has to field new names. In a few other constituencies too, the party may not repeat its candidates.

The AAP has to scout for a new candidate for Chandni Chowk, a seat represented by Alka Lamba, who was disqualified and has now joined the Congress. The party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Chandni Chowk and PAC member Pankaj Gupta is unlikely to contest from this seat. “At this point, there is no plan to fight,” Gupta said.

A popular name that has emerged is that of four-time former Congress MLA Prahlad Singh Sawhney, who joined the AAP in the presence of Kejriwal. However, speculation is that his son Purandeep Singh Sawhney, who had contested the 2017 MCD elections and lost, could fight on an AAP ticket from the constituency.

For the Karawal Nagar assembly constituency, which was represented by rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra who has already been axed, AAP’s youngest PAC member and Punjab-in charge Durgesh Pathak is most likely to contest, given the indications by Kejriwal in a public address in June earlier this year. Though names are yet to be finalised, Pathak has been rigorously campaigning in the constituency.

Bijwasan is another interesting constituency where the AAP will have to field a new name following the disqualification of its rebel MLA Colonel Devender Sherawat. Interestingly, the name that is doing the rounds is that of criminal lawyer BS Joon, who is defending the Delhi chief minister and his MLAs in the chief secretary assault case.

Meanwhile, Gokulpur’s AAP MLA Fateh Singh could also be axed. Former BSP MLA Surendra Kumar has emerged the frontrunner for a ticket from this constituency. Kumar had won in 2008 on a BSP ticket from Gokulpur but lost the two consecutive elections in 2013 and 2015. Kumar joined the AAP in October this year after a brief four-month spell with AAP’s arch rival, the BJP.

The party had lost the Rajouri Garden bypoll after its sitting MLA Jarnail Singh quit to contest in the 2017 Punjab assembly elections, taking on the then chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, but lost to him. In the Delhi bypolls that were necessitated, AAP’s Harjeet Singh faced a crushing defeat with joint SAD-BJP candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa bagging the seat.

AAP is now mulling over fielding three-time former councillor Dhanwati Chandela, the wife of former MLA Dayanand Chandela. In the 2017 MCD elections though, Dhanwati Chandela had secured less votes than the AAP candidate, finishing a distant third.

Rohini was one of the three seats that the AAP lost in the 2015 elections. AAP’s 2015 candidate CL Gupta was trounced by BJP’s Vijender Gupta by over 5,000 votes. In the upcoming assembly elections, Rajesh Nama Bansiwala, of a well-known sweetmeat shop by the same surname, has emerged as a strong contender for this seat. Bansiwala had also contested as an independent and lost in the 2017 MCD elections, his performance worse than the AAP candidate who also lost.

Kejriwal’s party is also scouting for a candidate for the Gandhi Nagar constituency, which was represented by now-disqualified rebel MLA Anil Kumar Bajpai.

Apart from these, three other MLAs could also face the axe — sitting AAP MLA Manoj Kumar from Kondli, Patel Nagar sitting MLA Hazari Lal Chauhan and Pankaj Pushkar, AAP’s incumbent one-time rebel MLA from Timarpur.

Manoj Kumar has been convicted by a city court for obstructing a public servant from discharging his duties and assault. The party could replace him with the current LOP of East MCD, Kuldeep Kumar. With Patel Nagar’s Chauhan most probably on his way out, all eyes are on Veena Anand and Raj Kumar Anand. The couple recently joined the party and one of them is likely to get a ticket. Raj Kumar Anand had contested as an independent in 2015 and secured a little over 1,100 votes.

There is some unease within a section of AAP over its sitting Janakpuri MLA Rajesh Rishi who got into a public spat with AAP councilor Praveen Rajput.

While Pankaj Pushkar from Timarpur is likely to face the axe, AAP’s Lok Sabha candidate Dilip Pandey — who contested and lost from Delhi’s North East Lok Sabha constituency — may make the cut. AAP’s sitting Bawana MLA Ram Chander is also likely to lose his seat to Guggan Singh, who contested and lost the North West Lok Sabha constituency. While Atishi is most likely to contest, Raghav Chadha, the other Lok Sabha candidate, is yet to make up his mind.

Stressing on the uncertainty of elections, Pankaj Gupta said: “We have not finalised tickets till now and will inform you when we do.”