Delhi votes in the general election on May 12 and the deadline for filing nominations is April 23. Yet, neither the Bharatiya Janata Party nor the Congress have announced their candidates so far.
The ruling Aam Aadmi Party has not only named candidates for all seven seats but announced they will file their nominations starting April 18 even as talks continue for an alliance with the Congress.
Balbir Singh Jakhar will file his nomination for West Delhi on April 18, AAP’s Delhi convenor Gopal Rai announced. Pankaj Gupta in Chandni Chowk, Atishi in East Delhi and Gugan Singh in North West Delhi will do so on April 20. The party’s candidates for New Delhi, South Delhi and North East Delhi will file their nominations on April 22, Rai said.
Rai’s announcement came a day after Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal of doing a “U turn” on forming an alliance.
The two parties have been discussing the possibility of joining hands for months. The sticking point apparently is AAP’s demand to extend the proposed alliance to Haryana and Punjab. The Congress is insisting on limiting any partnership to Delhi.
According to the Economic Times, AAP has already stitched an alliance in Haryana, with the Jannayak Janata Party. AAP will fight three of the state’s 10 parliamentary seats, leaving the rest for its ally.
Though the Congress is preparing to fight all seven seats in Delhi, it remains “open to an alliance”, PC Chacko, who oversees the grand old party’s affairs in the Capital, said last week. “In the last election in Delhi, the Congress received 21% of the vote while the Aam Aadmi Party secured 26%,” he said. “Together, we won 47% of the vote. On pro rata basis, the Congress should get three seats while the Aam Aadmi Party should contest on four seats in Delhi. This was the understanding in talks with Sanjay Singh.”
Waiting for the alliance
While AAP seems to be going ahead with its plans for the election, uncertainty over the alliance has held back the Congress and, curiously, even the BJP.
“We are waiting for the alliance to be finalised before we release our candidate list,” said a senior Delhi BJP leader who would only speak anonymously. “There is some curiosity over the alliance. We are most concerned about the North East seat which has a sizeable Muslim population.”
Harish Khurana, spokesperson of the Delhi BJP, however, said they will declare their candidates in “two to three days before the last day of filing nominations”. “It doesn’t matter as we are under the roof of the lotus,” he said, referring to the party’s election symbol. “We can expect change of candidates for two to three seats. It’s very common for names to come out late. Even in 2014 the names were announced the night before the last date of filing nominations.”
Scroll.in contacted Delhi BJP chief and sitting North East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari, but he was not available for comment.
Rajesh Bhatia, general secretary of the Delhi BJP, claimed that the party’s central leadership is finalising the candidate list and the timing of its release will not be “affected by the alliance”.
The Congress claimed it has already finalised candidates for four seats but “not yet declared them officially”. “Apart from the four names, we cannot say anything until the alliance is finalised,” said the party’s Delhi spokesperson Jitendar Kochhar.
According to the Hindustan Times, the four nominees are Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk, JP Aggarwal from North East Delhi, Ajay Maken from New Delhi, Rajkumar Chauhan from North West Delhi.
A Congress leader involved with the party’s campaign in Delhi contended that the delay in announcing candidates will not affect the party since “work in the control room” has already started. “Once we have word on the alliance, we can change our work according to the names that get finalised or removed,” he said.
Scroll.in contacted Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit and PC Chacko for comment, but neither responded to phone calls or text messages.