New Faces, Reward for Switching Over & Discontent: Good, Bad & Ugly of AAP’s Delhi Candidate List


New Delhi: After days of intense speculation and in what is seen as a do-or-die battle for the AAP, the party released its list of candidates for the Delhi elections in one go, shortly after a meeting of its highest decision-making body, the PAC.

While Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is set to contest from New Delhi Vidhan Sabha constituency for the third time, Manish Sisodia will also stick to Patparganj constituency.

All the other ministers in the current AAP government — Satyendar Jain, Kailash Gahlot, Imran Hussain and Gopal Rai — will also contest from Shakur Basti, Najafgarh, Ballimaran and Babarpur respectively.

Three of AAP’s seven Lok Sabha candidates have also found a place in the list — Atishi Marlena who contested from East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency and lost to both BJP and Congress will now be contesting from Kalkaji.

Siting MLA of Kalkaji, Avtar Singh has been dropped. Raghav Chadha, who contested from South Delhi, will be shifting base to Rajinder Nagar and sitting AAP MLA from the constituency Vijender Garg has been dropped.

Dilip Pandey, who had contested from North East Delhi, will now replace sitting MLA Pankaj Pushkar in Timarpur. Pushkar has been one of the rebel AAP MLAs who did not see eye-to-eye with the party on several issues and had multiple run-ins in the Vidhan Sabha as well.

In the 2015 Delhi elections, Dilip Pandey was in charge of 35 constituencies. The man who was incharge of the other 35 constituencies and played a key role in AAP's Punjab debut, Durgesh Pathak, is all set to contest from Karawal Nagar — a seat that was vacant after rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra was disqualified.

Of the 15 sitting MLAs who have been axed, the one most certainly going to raise eyebrows is Adarsh Shastri, the grandson of Lal Bahadur Shastri, who joined the party after quitting his high-paying job at Apple.

Shastri is a well-known professional with a clean image and until three days ago, was looking forward to contesting again.

He has been replaced by Vinay Mishra, the son of Congress strongman Mahabal Mishra, who had joined the party just two days ago and will now contest from Dwarka. Mishra has earlier contested and lost from Palam.

The axing of Shastri and giving a ticket to party-hopper Vinay Mishra three weeks ahead of election perhaps sums up the distance the party has travelled.

Shoaib Iqbal from Matia Mahal is another name that is bound to be controversial. An aggressive politician from the area, he is a leader who commands personal loyalty of a sizeable section of voters.

In 2013, Iqbal defeated the AAP. However, in 2015, he lost to AAP candidate Asim Ahmed Khan.

While Khan was made a minister in the AAP cabinet, Kejriwal sacked him following allegations of bribery.

Khan, like Pushkar, was also on the margins of the party and the reconciliation between him and the party was on the surface.

Sources say the surveys done by the party painted a bleak picture for Khan. AAP will most certainly be targeted by both Congress and BJP for giving a ticket to Iqbal, who apart from having cases filed against him on serious charges, had also targeted Kejriwal personally in the 2013 Delhi legislative assembly.

The other party-hopper from Congress, Ram Singh Netaji who joined AAP along with Vinay Mishra in the presence of Kejriwal and top brass of the party, has also been rewarded with a ticket. He will contest from Badarpur.

ND Sharma, the sitting MLA from AAP who had defeated Netaji in 2015, has already held a press conference where he alleged that the ticket was “sold”. A couple of hours after the list was out, Sharma resigned from the party in protest.

Kuldeep Kumar, an AAP councillor, has been given the ticket from Kondli in place of sitting MLA Manoj Kumar.

Kumar was convicted by a city court in a case of assaulting a woman and had been given a 7-day jail term.

The other old AAP hand who is also a councillor and has been given a ticket is Rohit Kumar Mehraulia who will contest from Trilokpuri in place of sitting MLA Raju Dhingan.

AAP has also axed its sitting MLA from Sultanpur Majra, Sandeep Kumar. Mukesh Kumar Alwahat, who had joined the party after quitting the Congress in 2014, will be contesting in Kumar's place.

Sandeep Kumar, who was made a minister was sacked by Kejriwal on Twitter after an “objectionable video” of him had surfaced. He was also suspended from the party. Kumar has been spotted at the Congress party's office multiple times.

Old AAP volunteer Virender Singh Kadian has replaced sitting MLA commando Surinder. A former NSG commando, Surinder had killed terrorists in the Mumbai terror attack and was injured himself.

Sitting MLA Sukhbir Dalal from Mundka will be replaced by AAP volunteer Dharampal Lakra.

BS Joon, a lawyer, will contest from Bijwasan. The seat had fallen vacant after the disqualification of Col Devender Sherawat.

Interestingly, Joon is also incharge of defending Kejriwal and nine MLAs in the chief secretary assault case.

Naveen Dipu Choudhury, earlier with the Congress, will contest from Gandhi Nagar, following the disqualification of Anil Bajpai.

Deepak Singla, a businessman associated with AAP since long in the East Delhi constituency, will contest from Vishwas Nagar, a seat that AAP's Atul Gupta had lost to BJP's Om Prakash Sharma.

Parlad Sawhney, a four-time Congress MLA who had joined AAP a few months earlier, will contest from Chandni Chowk. The seat was vacant following the disqualification of Alka Lamba.

Rajkumari Dhillon, who will contest from Hari Nagar, and Dhanwanti Chandela, who will contest from Rajouri Garden, are among the three (the other being Atishi) new women faces who have been given tickets.

Dhillon will replace AAP sitting MLA Jagdeep Singh, who was the chief whip of the party in the 2015 Delhi Assembly.

Both Dhillon and Chadela have a political background and have contested before. While Chandela had joined the party a few months back, she had contested on an INC ticket from Rajouri Garden and had lost to M Sirsa, Dhillon joined the party just two days ago.

The number of OBC candidates has increased from seven in 2015 to 11 in 2020, while the number of women candidates has increased from six to eight. Of the 23 'new' faces, nine have gone to old party hands. Among the rest, most new joinees are from the Congress followed by the BSP. Interestingly, at least eight of the new AAP candidates have very deep pockets.