The Aam Aadmi Party is looking to finalise its candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections early, as the short-on-funds outfit wants their candidates to get a head start.
With its plans for rapid expansion on hold, and hoping to be a bigtime player in the alliance of regional parties, the AAP is taking the Lok Sabha challenge on its turf very seriously.
Sources within the party told News18 that informal and primary discussions within the party had already begun and certain candidates were being strongly pushed for. Among them are party spokesperson and PAC member Atishi Marlena for East Delhi, in-charge of 35 seats during 2015 Assembly Elections Dilip Pande for North East constituency, party’s youth face Raghav Chadda for New Delhi constituency and PAC member Pankaj Gupta for Chandni Chowk.
Gupta, though, would be going up against BJP heavyweight Harsh Vardhan and the party leadership might consider a stronger candidate from the constituency
Guggan Singh Ranga, who had quit the BJP to join AAP because he was denied the Bawana ticket during its bypoll, is being touted as a strong contender for Delhi North West.
Apart from this, a few AAP MLAs have also expressed an interest in contesting Lok Sabha elections. Prominent among them being Laxmi Nagar MLA Nitin Tyagi, with him putting up posters in Anil Bajpai’s Gandhi Nagar constituency leading to a tiff between the two.
The line-of-thought within the party, though, is not keen on pushing MLAs for the MP posts. A major reason being that the party wants to avoid bypolls and has seen a history of MLAs who have gone searching for greener pastures losing their seat in Delhi.
The party’s Rajouri Garden MLA Jarnail Singh had dropped out to contest in Punjab. The party went on to lose the assembly seat to the BJP in the subsequent bypoll. In case of Bawana, then AAP MLA Ved Prakash had resigned from the post and the party to join the BJP. When the national party fielded Prakash in the bypoll, the former MLA could not even get the party to lead even a single round of counting. Bawana eventually was won again by the AAP after fielding a local candidate Ram Chander.
Journalist-turned-politicians Ashutosh and Ashish Khetan, who contested from Chandni Chowk and New Delhi during the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, are not among the frontrunners this time. Sources told News18 that during the recent PAC meeting over selecting Rajya Sabha candidates, Ashutosh had told party high command that he does not wish to contest elections anymore. In 2014, the AAP had lost all seven seats in Delhi to the BJP.
Speaking to News18 on conditions of anonymity, a prominent AAP leader said that these were only preliminary discussions. “A lot of factors, including the ability to fight an election and the political opponent’s candidate, will be taken into account,” said the party leader.
When specifically asked about the candidates being discussed, another leader wryly remarked that many of the names were considered for Rajya Sabha as well!