With the Aam Aadmi Party on Wednesday nominating senior party leader Sanjay Singh and two little-known faces, a Delhi-based businessman with past links with the Congress and a veteran chartered accountant, as its Rajya Sabha nominees ignoring senior party leader Kumar Vishwas, the rifts in the party were out in the open. The decision taken by the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the AAP was greeted with scorn and disbelief by many party leaders and a barrage of criticism by the likes of Kumar Vishwas who dubbed himself a “martyr”, saying he was ignored for the Upper House for speaking against Arvind Kejriwal.
At the PAC meeting, senior leader Ashutosh, believed to be among the upper house hopefuls, red-flagged the billionaire businessman's nomination. He was the only one among the nine PAC members to have raised an objection.
Before the PAC meeting at Kejriwal’s residence, around 56 AAP MLAs met the chief minister. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed the MLAs unanimously endorsed the candidates, however, sources said there were disagreements. Several came out sporting downcast faces and went scurrying for their vehicles, avoiding the media persons gathered outside.
“Arvind Kejriwal wanted three eminent personalities to represent Delhi in the upper house. Accordingly, we got in touch with 18 such persons from various fields including the media, academics, law. However, a few among them politely declined saying joining the RS on a party ticket may affect their independence. The rest said identifying with AAP may prompt the Centre to ruin their lives. So we went for a mix and nominated those who may not be of high-level but with significant contributions,” Sisodia told a press conference.
Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba congratulated Singh for his candidature. She refused to comment on the other two names.
Singh, a former social activist hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur, is counted among Kejriwal’s most trusted lieutenants and has been with him since the India Against Corruption agitation days. Most recently, Singh (46), a mechanical engineer by training, was the party’s Punjab poll in-charge. Sushil Gupta (56), who unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Delhi Assembly polls on a Congress ticket, has declared assets running into over Rs 160 crore while Narain Dass Gupta (72) is a former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). Sushil Gupta, who runs a chain of private and charitable schools and identified himself as an agriculturalist in the 2013 poll affidavit, quit the Congress on November 28, last year.
Kumar Vishwas, who is a PAC member, was not present in the meeting. Immediately after the announcement made by Sisodia, Vishwas lashed out at Kejriwal, saying he was being punished for speaking the “truth”.
Alleging that it is difficult to survive in the the Aam Aadmi Party if one disagrees with Kejriwal, the poet-politician charged that around one and half years ago, Kejriwal had in a party’s national executive meet said with a smile, “We will finish you, but we will not let you be a martyr. I want to congratulate (Kejriwal) that I have accepted my martyrdom,” he told reporters at his residence. Taking a dig at Kejriwal for nominating ND Gupta and Sushil Gupta to Raya Sabha, Vishwas said that he wanted to congratulate AAP volunteers that their voice has been heard in choosing the “great revolutionaries”.
The Opposition BJP and former AAP leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan also criticised the AAP’s decision. Yadav suggested that the AAP has struck financial deals with Sushil Gupta. “I used to say, whatever his other faults @ArvindKejriwal cannot be bought. Defended him against Kapil Mishra’s allegations. Now I don’t know what to say. Speechless, ashamed and numb.”
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari hit out at Kejriwal, saying the AAP has “betrayed the people by nominating two businessmen” for the polls to the upper house.
Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken posted a copy of Sushil Gupta’s resignation letter from the Congress on Twitter and tweeted, “On 28th Nov, Sushil Gupta came to submit his resignation - I asked him-’Why’? ‘I have been promised Rajya Sabha(seat)’ - was his reply.” Maken described Gupta as a “good man known for his charity.”
Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, former union minister Arun Shourie, ex-Chief Justice of India TS Thakur were among the personalities the AAP had reached out to for RS nominations.
Elections to three Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi would be held on January 16. The AAP, which enjoys a brute majority in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, is set to win all three seats. The last date to file nominations for the three Rajya Sabha seats is January 5.