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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

In first Lok Sabha list, AAP takes on Congress big guns, mum on Modi opponent

HT Correspondent & agencies, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, February 16, 2014
First Published: 15:19 IST(16/2/2014) | Last Updated: 02:39 IST(17/2/2014)

Within two days of giving up power in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Sunday revealed its first set of cards for the Lok Sabha polls, releasing a list of 20 candidates.

The party lined up fights in seats held by heavyweights, including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's Amethi, but kept the secrecy going on whom it would pick to go up against BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.

The 17-month-old party did not announce any candidate for Rae Bareli, the pocket borough of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, either.

Medha Patkar, Anjali Damania, Yogendra Yadav, Meera Sanyal and Kumar Vishwas are among 20 people who feature in the first list.

The AAP's list includes party spokesperson and former journalist Ashutosh, who will contest from Chandni Chowk, a constituency currently represented by law minister Kapil Sibal. Another journalist, Jarnail Singh, who hurled a shoe at then home minister P Chidambaram, will be in the fray from west Delhi.

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Social activist Patkar will contest from Mumbai Northeast constituency while former banker Meera Sanyal will fight the electoral battle from Mumbai South, which is currently represented by Milind Deora of the Congress. From Mumbai Northwest, Mayank Gandhi will be the party candidate.

Damania will contest from Nagpur constituency, a stronghold of former BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

AAP leader Yadav will contest from Gurgaon in Haryana while poet-turned-politician Vishwas will be fielded from Uttar Pradesh's Amethi constituency, which is a Congress stronghold and currently represented by its vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The announcement took place barely two days after AAP founder leader Kejriwal resigned as chief minister of Delhi after his party's efforts to pass the Jan Lokpal bill were stalled in the assembly.

"Today we have announced the names of 20 candidates. The selection of all these candidates has been done on the basis of their work for the society," AAP leader Manish Sisodia said at a press conference.

The over a year-old AAP had made a stunning debut in last year's Delhi assembly elections, bagging 28 seats. It went on to form the government that lasted 49 days.
"While choosing the candidates, we have tried to prevent corrupt and people with criminal charges from entering politics," Sisodia said.

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AAP leader Sanjay Singh also announced that Yogendra Yadav will be in charge of the party's efforts for Haryana's assembly polls, which are scheduled later this year.

In the first list, over a dozen candidates are to fight from constituencies that are currently represented by the Congress. Only one BJP-held constituency figures in the list.

Mukul Tripathi will fight from Uttar Pradesh's Farukkhabad constituency that is represented by external affairs minister Salman Khurshid.

Baba Hardev Singh, a former Uttar Pradesh state civil service officer, is being fielded from Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. The constituency is represented by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh.

Khalid Parwez, a social activist, is to contest from Moradabad constituency, which Congress MP and former cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin represents.
Lawyer HS Phoolka will contest from Ludhiana, the constituency of information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari.

Subhash Ware will fight from Pune, which is represented by Suresh Kalmadi.

Ashutosh said every challenge was big and he believes the party will do well in general elections.

"I take it as a challenge and we will get success as we got in Delhi. I have not planned what would be my strategy but will think about it," he said.

The decision on the candidates was taken after a meeting of the party's political affairs committee (PAC) earlier Sunday morning.

Read: Kejriwal turns to Anna for cutting edge in LS polls

Party sources said many names, including that of Arvind Kejriwal, were discussed at the PAC meeting.

The AAP has started preparations for the 2014 general elections under Kejriwal's leadership and will launch a nationwide campaign at Rohtak in Haryana on February 23, Yadav announced on Saturday. Rohtak is the constituency of Deepender Singh Hooda, son of Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

A similar rally will be held in Uttar Pradesh on March 2, Yadav said after the party's political affairs committee meeting.

The party also launched its Jhadu Chalao Yatra, an awareness campaign which will run till February 23.

The announcement came less than 24 hours after Kejriwal resigned as the chief minister of Delhi following the Congress and BJP blocking his government's flagship jan lokpal bill from being tabled in the Delhi assembly.

Though the party had earlier announced that it will fight up to 350 seats in the Lok Sabha polls, Kejriwal, will focus on fewer seats, said AAP leaders. There is a strong view within the party that leaders such as Kejriwal should target a smaller number of seats where the AAP has a fighting chance of winning, rather than spending its resources too thin.

An early party estimate pegs the number of such seats at 60. Most of them are in states neighbouring the Capital like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. The party also has several pockets of influence in different parts of the country, notably some cities in Maharashtra, which the AAP hopes to build on.

The AAP will undertake a chunk of yatras in its focus states, with around 461 such yatras in Uttar Pradesh, followed by 450 in Haryana and over 300 in Maharashtra, 270 in Bihar and 174 in Punjab.

Yadav said a decision hadn't been taken yet on Kejriwal contesting the Lok Sabha elections yet but the election was certainly going to be fought under his leadership. He, however, refused to answer directly a question about the possible 'Arvind Kejriwal' versus 'Narendra Modi' fight by simply saying, "As the campaign unfolds, things will be clearer slowly."

Most opinion polls give the AAP about 8-10 seats in the general elections. The scenario will change with the 10-day Jhadu Chalao Yatra reaching the people, say AAP leaders.

"The yatra will be conducted in 332 Lok Sabha constituencies across 24 states and at over 2600 places. We will expose Congress and BJP for defending corrupt persons during this campaign," said party leader Gopal Rai.

Stressing on the irrelevance of the Congress and the UPA in this election, Yadav said, "The BJP wants to come as a substitute, but AAP is keen on a 'substitute' versus 'alternative' fight. So if you think Modi is a substitute, we want to say Kejriwal is an alternative for better."

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