The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has declared all 70 candidates, and started intensive campaigning for the assembly elections likely in February-end, claiming an edge over the two other parties. The Congress has released just one list, while the BJP is yet to even start the process of naming candidates.
The AAP has started door-to-door campaigning, candidates are reaching out in their own capacity and party chief Arvind Kejriwal is holding meetings. Party leaders are conducting fund-raising events, while celebrity supporters such as musician Vishal Dadlani are also doing shows.
“We need all this and more to take on the BJP that is relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to shore up its fortunes,” said a senior AAP leader. Modi will kick off a high-octane campaign on January 10. The Congress which is not being seen in the fight will also fall back on its leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, while the AAP does not have too many leaders of national stature.
A quick look at AAP candidates announced in six lists over one and a half months shows the average age at 40, and most of them are at least graduates. The party has dropped 7 outgoing MLAs as it fought dissidence and looked to field new faces with stronger chances of winning. As many as 30 others who lost with big margins in 2013 have also been dropped.
The party has retained 21 outgoing MLAs, including former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and six of his then cabinet colleagues. It has also retained 11 of those who came second in 2013 but lost only by a slender margin. Gopal Rai, a senior party leader, is the only candidate retained despite being relegated to the third slot.
In all, there are 37 new faces, including 8 who have come from other parties, and 29 of AAP’s own volunteers. Various volunteers who headed AAP’s frontal outfits like those of women, students and scheduled castes have got tickets. Like the previous elections, there are 6 women, 5 Muslim and 4 Sikh candidates.
The party has also given tickets to three (Rakhi Birla, Jarnail Singh and Devinder Sehrawat) of its 7 Lok Sabha candidates who lost to BJP nominees but got substantial votes. Since one Lok Sabha seat comprises 10 assembly seats, the party wants to use the popularity of these three.
“We have dropped more than half of those who fought on AAP tickets in 2013 but it is a plain election exercise based on performance” said the AAP leader.