Delhi assembly elections: AAP in knots after high profile exits

New Delhi: Stung by the exit of four party leaders to the BJP in quick succession, the Aam Aadmi Party is being extra careful about its second and third list of candidates for the upcoming Delhi elections. The party has already released its first list of 22 candidates which doesn't have the names of Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and other heavy weights. Since then there has been speculation on who would make it to the subsequent lists.

While the party must field credible candidates to win the confidence of Delhi voters back, it also has to keep in mind the consequences of leaving out candidates who contested in the previous election. As the cases of core team member, Delhi former speaker MS Dhir and party founder member Aswini Upadhyay suggest, many of the latter won't mind walking into the waiting arms of the BJP if denied the ticket.

AAP volunteers. PTI

AAP volunteers. PTI

The party is maintaining a brave face about the high-profile exits though. "It’s a routine affair with any political party. If our members are joining the BJP, it’s vice-versa as well. There are members from the BJP, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party, who’ve recently joined the AAP. It has nothing to do with getting a ticket or not. Leaving a party can be due to various reasons. It can either be the decision of the party or that of the candidate,” a senior member of AAP told Firstpost.

However, the exit of its old timers hasn’t gone down well with the volunteers who strongly believe that it might have an adverse impact on AAP’s image during election. Their logic: "AAP is not just another political party, but an alternative that was formed on an ideology of bringing change in the system and not to enjoy power."

"We’re still unable to recover from the shock we received after the party’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha election. Thereafter several of our leaders and members from various committees left and now five original members of AAP have joined the BJP. The morale of volunteers and grassroots workers has taken a hit," an AAP volunteer said on condition of anonymity.

According to the party, the delay in announcing its consecutive lists has been due to 'strict screening process based on feedback and performance record of candidates'.

“Unlike last time, candidates won’t be selected on the basis of voting process, because it leads to grouping. This time new candidates are being selected through volunteers’ meetings. There’s a complaint committee, which is looking into the credibility and image of a candidate, including those who had contested in the last election or sitting MLAs. If we get any complaint against any candidate, even a day before the poll, backed by sound evidence, we would withdraw the candidate. We’re following zero-tolerance policy on this issue,” said AAP leader and complaint committee head, Ashish Khetan.

"Selection of a candidate will be on the basis of one’s performance review, which is taking place at multiple levels and through multiple channels, so that the party can field the right candidate for the particular constituency, and the process is in progress," AAP leader Yogendra Yadav had told during an interaction with the Firstpost.

But, does the party have much to choose from?

Before the announcement of the first list, the party had identified a few sitting MLAs and candidates who had contested the Delhi election in 2013 but whose performance or public image was not convincing. But, now with the exodus of members, who voluntarily opted to quit the party, the selection committee doesn’t have much choice than to retain even those against whom the reports are adverse.

"Initially, the top brass in AAP decided to drop Trilokpuri MLA Raju Dhingan for his lackadaisical attitude during the riot, but now probably he’ll make it in the list. Same is in the case of two other candidates in the first list against whom the volunteers have reservations, but the party has maintained silence," a source said.

"The exit of members is obvious. There’s no internal democracy within AAP and it’s now following the same ‘high-command’ culture, it had initially opposed. When we were within the party we raised the issue of Swaraj and were shown door, and we’re still fighting to bring it back in the party. Many more members will leave the party in days to come due to growing frustration, which is never addressed," remarked Akhilesh, senior member of AAP Volunteers Vichar Manch (AVAM), a splinter group of AAP. “Is there any real transparency in the selection process?” he questioned.

When it was finalized that Delhi would go for a fresh poll, the AAP had said that it would field some prominent faces which now seems not to be working. Unlike, the general election where AAP fielded well-known figures from social sector to corporate world like Medha Patkar, Meera Sanyal, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, V Balakrishnan etc., an assembly poll is more about local issues and local candidate.

"And, with the defeat of all the prominent faces in Lok Sabha election, out of which many had to lose their deposit, the ‘personality strategy’ has been ruled out. It’ll be a local candidate with a credible image. The prominent faces in the forthcoming lists will be the same from the old team of 2013 -- Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Rakhi Birla etc., unless something unusual takes place," an AAP source said.

Updated Date: Nov 27, 2014 19:26 PM

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