Congress old guard is back, Delhi set for 3-way fight
The Congress announced on Monday the names of Sheila Dikshit and some of her key associates from the time she was chief minister as Lok Sabha candidates, signalling the end of a four-month-long negotiation saga with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and making the fight for the national capital a triangular contest.
The list, which includes the names of Delhi heavyweights such as former Union minister Ajay Maken and state minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, shows the Congress and the AAP, who both accepted they must come together to successfully defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party, failed to find a common ground.
The BJP, which on Monday named cricketer Gautam Gambhir as a new face from East Delhi, has so far retained five of its seven incumbent MPs.
“Congress has around 7-8% votes in Delhi. Had the alliance been restricted only to Delhi, as the Congress was asking for, then they would have lost even that vote share. Now by opting out of the alliance, the Congress has made it clear that it wants the BJP to win in the elections,” said AAP leader and Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia following the announcement. Congress leaders did not comment on the alliance on record, but a senior leader aware of developments said a small window for negotiations was open till April 26, the last day for nominations to be withdrawn. “The senior leadership, including our party president Rahul Gandhi ji, is keen on an alliance… So, just because candidates are announced we cannot say that those doors are closed. The AAP had announced candidates for all seven seats and yet they continued to have talks with us,” the leader said.
Congress’s JP Agarwal, Ajay Maken, Mahabal Mishra, Arvinder Singh Lovely, Rajesh Lilothia and boxer Vijender Singh were named as the other candidates.
They will need to file their nominations on Tuesday, the last date for accepting papers for the polls that will be held on May 12. All of AAP’s nominees have filed their papers.
Any discussion between the two sides is also likely to factor in the candidate selection by the BJP, which on Monday declared Lekhi would defend her New Delhi seat and cricketer Gautam Gambhir will fight from East Delhi. The BJP was yet to release the name of its seventh candidate.
“We will win all the seven seats irrespective of whether they (AAP and Congress) forge an alliance or not. They have lost the credibility and people don’t trust them,” said Shyam Jaju, Delhi BJP in-charge.
Congress’s Delhi in-charge, PC Chacko, said the names announced on Monday comprised leaders with most public connect. “We have fielded the strongest faces to represent the party. These are leaders who the people recognise and voters have an immediate connect with them, because they have seen the work that they have done in the past,” he said.
Dikshit, chief minister for three stints, will fight from North East Delhi; four-time MP JP Aggarwal from Chandni Chowk; two-time MP and former Union minister Ajay Maken from New Delhi; former MP Mahabal Mishra from West Delhi; three-time MLA and former Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely from East Delhi and two-time MLA and working president of Delhi Congress Rajesh Lilothia from North West Delhi. Vijender Singh was fielded from South Delhi.