The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a critical constituent of the INDIA bloc, declared two more Lok Sabha election candidates for Goa and Gujarat and offered one out of the seven constituencies to the Congress in its bastion Delhi.
AAP MP Sandeep Pathak, a key negotiator within the INDIA bloc, unilaterally declared AAP’s Benaulim MLA Venzy Viegas as the party’s Lok Sabha election candidate from South Goa, Chaitar Vasava from Bharuch and Umesh ‘bhai’ Makwana from Bhavnagar in Gujarat. Pathak said he hoped the INDIA bloc would accept these candidates. He had earlier declared three AAP candidates for Assam. The announcement came after a meeting of the AAP Political Action Committee.
“I would like to place something in the context of Delhi. Congress party got zero in Lok Sabha elections as well as Vidhan Sabha elections. In MCD elections, they got nine out of 250 wards. If you look at the merit and the statistics, then the Congress party does not deserve even one seat,” Pathak said.
“However, only data is not important. One has to keep the alliance dharma also in mind. And keeping the ‘maan‘ (prestige) of the alliance and Congress party, we are offering one seat to the Congress. It is our proposal that the Congress may fight on one seat and AAP on six seats,” he argued.
The AAP, however, did not declare candidates for Delhi. As reported by News18 earlier, the AAP said that if there is no discussion with the Congress on Delhi seat-sharing soon, it would go ahead and declare candidates for the six seats. The AAP also clarified that this offer of six seats for AAP and one for Congress was extended to the latter during closed-door discussions and that there were multiple demands from the Congress party as well. However, talks haven’t moved forward.
“Technically, the same rule that the Congress party applies to us when it comes to giving us seats in other states is applicable to all. In that context, the Congress party is nowhere. This is what the data says. It is not our aim to hurt anyone. We don’t feel great saying this. However, such feelings are not important. What is important is to fight and win elections,” said Pathak.
In a hint that the number of seats the AAP may be willing to concede in Delhi could be tied to what the Congress is willing to give up in Haryana, Pathak said: “As far as Haryana and Chandigarh go, talks should begin soon. As far as Punjab is concerned, we have already made it clear that state units of both parties have decided that they will fight separately. Respecting that, we have decided that we will fight separately.”
While it increasingly appeared as though the AAP was looking for an escape route from the INDIA bloc, Pathak emphasized: “The purpose is not to derail, the purpose is to constructively conclude the discussions.”
However, indicating fresh trouble for the INDIA bloc, the AAP, as promised, also unilaterally declared candidates for Goa and Gujarat.
“Looking at the time constraint, I am announcing the AAP candidate from Goa. Our leader Venzy Viegas, who is the MLA from Benaulim… We hope that the INDIA bloc will accept his candidature,” said Pathak.
On a two-day visit to Goa mid-January, AAP national convenor Arvind Kejriwal had said that the party was negotiating for one seat from within the INDIA bloc. In the 2022 Goa Assembly elections, the AAP had won two constituencies, both, in South Goa. The Congress party now has just three MLAs in the state and two of them are from South Goa, while the other is from North Goa.
“If Congress has three Assembly seats and AAP has two, then naturally, AAP should get one Lok Sabha seat. Keeping ‘winability’ in mind, the AAP has declared Shri Venzy Ji’s candidature,” said Pathak.
Arvind Kejriwal had already declared MLA Chaitar Vasava from the Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency on January 7 this year, which incidentally was just a day ahead of the beginning of formal talks between the AAP and the Congress. Pathak on Tuesday reiterated Vasava’s candidature
The AAP strategist disclosed that when the party asked for the Bharuch seat, it was told that this is an ’emotional’ seat for the Congress as Ahmed Patel used to fight from here and now his daughter would fight from the seat. Pathak argued that the last time the Congress won the seat was in 1984. In 2019, the BJP got 55% of the vote share in the seat, while the Congress got 26%.
“I want to say that if you have to defeat the BJP, you have to get out of parivaarvaad (dynasty politics). You can’t look at who is someone’s relative. You have to look at only who can win this seat and who can defeat the BJP,” Pathak said.
He claimed “all of Bharuch” wants Chaitar Vasava to win the Lok Sabha elections from the seat. “I can say sincerely that if anyone can defeat BJP in Bharuch, it is Chaitar ‘bhai’ Vasava. (Ahmed) Patel’s daughter Mumtaz Ji stays in Delhi. She has no political clout.”
Pathak on Tuesday additionally announced the candidature of Umeshbhai Makwana from Bhavnagar.
“If you look at the results of the Assembly elections in Gujarat, AAP had won five seats and 13% of the vote share. The Congress party had won 17 seats and 27% of the vote share. If you look at this scientifically and on the basis of merit, then AAP should get one-third of the seats and Congress two-third of the seats. According to this, we get eight seats. We have asked for eight seats. We have declared candidates for two and we will declare six more later. Congress may fight on 18 seats and AAP on eight. This is based purely on merit and vote share,” Pathak explained.
The Rajya Sabha MP pointed out that the AAP has had two official meetings with the Congress so far — on January 8 and 12. Though both meetings were held in a conducive atmosphere, both were inconclusive.
“You will notice that apart from these two official meetings, over the past one month, there have been no meetings. We have been waiting for talks to move forward. We were told that the (Bharat Jodo Nyay) yatra of the Congress party is going on now and that there would be a delay of two or three days. We kept waiting. In the meantime, there were opportunities of meeting many important leaders of the Congress party. However, even they did not have any idea or clarity about when the next meeting will happen,” Pathak said.
“In such circumstances, many questions come to mind and one gets worried that it would be difficult to fight elections. It is because of this worry that I am sitting here. And, I am sitting here with a heavy heart. Had the talks been going on, there would be no need for me to be here,” he added.
The 11-member AAP PAC met at 11:30am at 6, Flagstaff Road, the residence of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. On the agenda was finalizing candidates for Haryana, Gujarat, Goa and the way forward for the AAP-Congress alliance in Delhi.
The AAP PAC is led by Arvind Kejriwal and has 10 other members. Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh are currently behind bars. ND Gupta, Imran Hussain, Gopal Rai, Atishi, Rakhi Bidlan, Durgesh Pathak and Pankaj Gupta were present. Sandeep Pathak, a special invitee, was also present. Importantly, in this PAC meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, though not a member, was also present. Raghav Chadha, a PAC member, was not present.
The AAP has also declared Manoj Dhanohar, Bhaven Chaudhary and Rishi Raj from Assam’s Dibrugarh, Guwahati and Sonetpur, respectively. On February 10, Kejriwal announced the AAP would contest all 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab plus the Chandigarh seat. The Congress had also said that it would fight on all seats in Punjab on its own. Both
Kejriwal and Mann have declared that the AAP will announce its candidates for Punjab in 10 to 15 days. A day later, Kejriwal said at a rally in Tarn Taran that Delhites would make the AAP win all seven constituencies in the national capital, sparking speculation that there would be no alliance between AAP and Congress in Delhi either.