Six Delhi BJP leaders who quit the party in the past year will contest the upcoming assembly elections in the national capital on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tickets. They include two former MLAs and three councilors. AAP has also fielded two others who have switched from the BSP and the Congress.
While the BJP has accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led party of poaching, and picking turncoats to win Delhi, AAP says the defections are an achievement “at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is soaring amid intensive membership drives by the saffron party.”
Senior AAP leader Manish Sisodia denied poaching allegations. “The exodus shows people are getting disenchanted with BJP because of their conduct and their politics of communalism. But we are not offering tickets to engineer defections. Volunteers decide who fights from where.” He said scores of BJP leaders have joined AAP, but the party has fielded only six such ‘defectors’.
Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay said the defections could not be linked to “Modi-ji’s popularity.” “Those who have left BJP are power hungry just like Kejriwal. They realised BJP will not give them tickets. This will not affect our prospects. Such political tourism happens every election,” he said.
The state assembly elections are likely in mid-February. Though the dates are yet to be announced, a meeting of the full Election Commission today has fuelled speculation that the poll schedule will be revealed soon.
Former BJP MLA Ram Niwas Goel is the AAP candidate from Shahdara. Goyal, who was BJP’s Shahdara district president (a district comprises five assembly segments), quit the BJP last February to join AAP. Raghuvendra Shaukeen, who served as a BJP councilor twice, also joined AAP last February and is now its candidate from Nangloi Jat in northwest Delhi.
Four other former state BJP leaders — Ved Prakash, Kartar Singh Tanwar, Naresh Balyan and Fateh Singh — joined AAP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
AAP has fielded Prakash from Bawana in northwest Delhi. He was a youth leader with the BJP, its Dalit face and a senior office-bearer of the party’s state committee. Tanwar, who has served as a BJP councilor twice, is now AAP’s candidate from Chattarpur in south Delhi.
Balyan, who joined the BJP during the 2013 assembly elections, is now AAP’s Uttam Nagar candidate.
Fateh Singh — a former BJP MLA who held key positions in the Delhi BJP and was also deputy speaker in Delhi assembly once — is the AAP nominee from Gokulpuri in northeast Delhi.
AAP claims it has made inroads into east, northwest, northeast south and west Delhi Lok Sabha seats through these defections. One LS seat comprises 10 assembly segments.
Senior AAP leader Ashutosh said, “AAP is a movement for honest and clean politics. Anybody who is clean, believes in honest politics is welcome in the party.”
Apart from these six, Sahi Ram, who was a BSP candidate in 2013, is an AAP nominee from Tughlakabad. Another BSP nominee (2008) Sharad Chauhan will fight from Narela for AAP. SK Bagga, AAP’s Krishna Nagar nominee, has come from the Congress.
Through November and December, AAP declared all 70 candidates in six lists. The party has dropped seven outgoing MLAs as it fought dissidence and looked to field new faces with stronger winnability. As many as 30 others who lost with big margins in 2013 have also been dropped.