The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday withdrew its northwest Delhi candidate Mahendra Singh and replaced him with former minister and Mangolpuri MLA Rakhi Birla.
Although the party maintained that “Singh returned the ticket for personal reasons”, sources said, “The decision was taken in the light of allegations that there were at least three-four criminal cases against Singh, including one for circulating fake currency for which he was jailed for three months.”
When asked, Singh told HT: “I was acquitted in the cases and had informed the party about it.” When asked what his next line of action will be, he said, “I will continue to work for the organisation and campaign more actively.
Birla will take on Congress’ Krishna Tirath, sitting MP and Union minister for women and child development, and the BJP’s Udit Raj.
Birla’s candidature will mean the party has reversed its decision to not field any sitting MLAs for the Lok Sabha polls. Convenor Arvind Kejriwal too is set to contest from Varanasi against BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
AAP’s political affairs committee (PAC) took the decision to replace Singh after getting feedback. Both Singh and Birla were called to the party’s Hanuman Road office on Tuesday morning after which Singh went on to “return” his ticket.
Later, there were reports of mudslinging as Singh claimed that Birla did not cooperate with him for campaigning and alleged that she had demanded R7 lakh for joining him on campaign trail. Party leaders rubbished these charges as “utter nonsense.”
Despite repeated calls and SMSes, HT could not reach Birla for her comments.
Before AAP had announced Singh’s name, Birla’s name had been doing the rounds for the northwest Delhi seat. Volunteers from northwest Delhi had even protested against her likely candidature at that time.