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In Delhi, AAP’s electoral greenhorns against heavyweights of Congress and BJP

All AAP candidates, except the North West Delhi candidate Gugan Singh, have never been in an electoral fight.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 23, 2019 10:16 IST
Abhishek Dey and Sweta Goswami
Abhishek Dey and Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
lok sabha elections 2019,lok sabha polls in delhi,AAP
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supporters seen with placards during a road show , in New Delhi, India, on Monday, April 22, 2019. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Till a few days ago, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress were holding talks to forge an alliance in Delhi. Now, with the possibility of a tie-up almost over, candidates of the two parties are preparing to face each other in what will be a three-cornered contest for the seven parliamentary seats in Delhi.

Besides the Congress, the AAP candidates will be contesting against heavyweights of Delhi politics fielded by the BJP. Comparatively, all AAP candidates, except the North West Delhi candidate Gugan Singh, have never been in an electoral fight. Also, the BJP has retained five MPs and named former cricketer Gautam Gambhir as its nominee from East Delhi. The party is yet to announce its candidate from North West constituency.

Delhi goes to the polls on May 12.

Atishi, the AAP’s candidate from East Delhi, will be taking on the Congress’ Arvinder Singh Lovely, who has been a three-time MLA from Gandhi Nagar constituency and a former president of the party’s Delhi unit.

“Arvinder Singh Lovely is a politician who joined the BJP and returned to the Congress. Any individual who opposes the Modi-Shah rule can never see an alternative in Lovely,” Atishi said.

“Lovely was the education minister in Delhi. I will dig out the pamphlets he had distributed ahead of the elections in 2014, take them to people and make them see how many promises has he actually kept. Our strategy is to make people compare the performance of the Congress and AAP governments on education, especially with regard to government schools,” Atishi, a former advisor to Delhi’s education minister, said.

However, Lovely dismissed both his opponents -- Atishi and Gambhir -- as “outsiders”.

“Atishi is on an election picnic. She has been campaigning in East Delhi for the past three months only. On other hand, I have been working for the people of East Delhi for over a decade. I will campaign on the basis of my work done in Delhi especially in the education sector,” he said.

Lovely said he would “expose” the AAP government’s “claims of improvement” in the education sector.

Also Read | Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Will the capital be a cakewalk for BJP?

In North East Delhi, a Purvanchali bastion, the Congress has fielded its three-term CM Sheila Dikshit. For the AAP’s Dilip Pandey it will be his first electoral outing. The BJP contender from the seat is the sitting MP Manoj Tiwari, a popular Bhojpuri actor-turned-politician.

Pandey said his campaign style has a distinct “local” flavour. “I do not think that fielding someone like Sheila Dikshit from North East Delhi will affect the AAP’s campaign strategy in any way. People in the constituency have voted en masse against the Congress in both 2014 general elections and in 2015 Delhi assembly elections, and expressed how their sentiments are against the Congress,” he said.

Pandey said, “The Congress would probably have compelled us to redesign our campaign strategy to some extent if they had rather fielded fresh faces instead of candidates who have worked and have failed in Delhi.”

Ajay Maken, the Congress candidate from New Delhi, said he and the other Congress leaders would rather use their experience in politics and governance to convince voters. Maken has worked as the union urban development minister and in the transport and power minister in the Delhi government.

“Delhi is a city of Karmacharis (government servants) and Vyaparis (traders) and the Congress have identified the sealing drive and anomalies in the seventh pay commission as two major issues in Delhi, other than larger issues which we have already been raising,” said Maken.

“In my campaign, we will emphasise on telling voters how we amended the Master Plan of Delhi and brought an ordinance to stop sealing drive. Our strategy will be to convince people with our impeccable record on governance,” he said.

Several other leaders of the AAP said that at this point it is essential for the party to include in their strategy preparation of performance reports of Congress leaders, like they have so far done with the BJP MPs in Delhi. The AAP candidates Brijesh Goyal, who will be contesting against Maken from New Delhi, and Balbir Jakhar, who will be taking on Congress leader Mahabal Mishra in West Delhi, said they will be adopting the same approach.

First Published: Apr 23, 2019 10:15 IST