The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is making its political debut, but many of its candidates are not. Unlike the top leadership of the party, which has a complete non-political background, more than a dozen of its nominees have spent years with the Congress and BJP, whom AAP has branded absolutely corrupt. They also held crucial organisational posts before joining the AAP.
Most candidates say they had a change of heart during Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal movement and jumped on to the anti-corruption bandwagon. Those like Anil Kumar Vajpayi (56), AAP’s nominee from Gandhi Nagar, had other reasons as well. “He was head of Delhi Congress Committee, had a rift with Sheila Dikshit over price rise, which led him to confront the chief minister,” his bio-data says.
The Congress and the BJP have been attacking AAP, saying that if these two parties are corrupt, why give tickets to their former leaders. The list of nominees also include several independent councillors who were earlier associated with the BJP and the Congress.
AAP’s national executive member, Sanjay Singh defended the decision. “We were never averse to giving tickets to people from other parties provided they were honest and had done social work. Since we completed announcement of our candidates quite early, we did not have to entertain rebels from other parties,” he said.
“The handful of people you are referring to are those who had left their parties long back and were working with us with no ticket aspirations in mind. They must have left their parties for a reason. Unlike us, the BJP and Congress gave tickets to each others’ men at the eleventh hour,” Singh said.
“For example, Congress has fielded former BJP councillor VK Monga from Krishna Nagar against Harsh Vardhan. Till recently, Monga was a close associate of Vardhan,” he said.
But political scientists view the phenomenon differently. Ravi Ranjan, fellow at Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi, said, “AAP started with a fresh outlook but they are evolving like other parties in their rush to grab power. They set out to change the corrupt system with support from the middle class but the same middle class is witness to duality of means and ends of AAP.”
“It’s a myth that AAP is a party of newbies. You cannot win elections only with those who sacrifice their careers and deliver well-meaning talk. Knowing full well that the ability to win is the sole factor in the elections we have had to field experienced leaders,” said another AAP leader.