Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to send two surprise nominees—Narain Dass Gupta and Sushil Gupta—to the Rajya Sabha has come in for criticism from both inside and outside the Aam Aadmi Party. However, so far as the name of the third candidate, Sanjay Singh is concerned, there has been not only wide acceptance, but acknowledgment that an activist associated with the organisation had finally been rewarded.
In fact, Sanjay Singh—inadvertently or advertently—appeared to have distanced himself from the other two, when he did not oblige waiting camera persons wishing to click all the three together, after they had on Thursday filed their nominations. He waited for the Gupta duo to leave before he emerged from the Deputy Commissioner’s office. Curiously, the Guptas were not accompanied by any of the known AAP faces, underlining the fact that the rank and file had been unable to digest the day-old announcement of their names.
Kejriwal has maintained a studied silence on the subject, and as a matter of fact, the AAP’s explanation of why the “outsiders” had been chosen was furnished by the Delhi convener, Gopal Rai. Defending the party’s choice, he stated that Sushil Gupta was involved in the running of several educational institutions in Haryana as well, and would thus enable the AAP to establish a noteworthy presence prior to the Assembly polls there. As far as N.D. Gupta was concerned, he had been assisting the party to respond to notices alleging financial irregularities dispatched by various agencies of the Central government.
What stood out is that Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia, who likes to bat on the front foot, read out from a sheet of paper, the names of the candidates. In time, the grassroots level supporters may evidently accept the choices settled on, since they, like others, have been critical of the selection but have no option.
There is little doubt that Kejriwal, being the campaign spearhead of the party, has every right to hand-pick whoever he wishes to. He apparently is fighting a battle both within and outside his organisation, and his followers expected that he should have nominated his nominees keeping in mind the interests of Delhi, which has become the nucleus of AAP’s expansion plans.
The AAP is an outfit, which has, to a large degree, usurped the Congress vote bank and has garnered the unflinching support of the poor migrants from Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The local Banias had supported the party in the 2015 polls, abandoning the BJP, since in Kejriwal they saw someone from their community who was poised to be the Chief Minister of Delhi—a phenomenon which never happened either during the Congress or the BJP regimes. This must have further pleased them. The Poorvanchalis would be gratified to have Sanjay Singh, a Rajput hailing from Sultanpur, as yet another representative in Parliament from Delhi.
Yet what about the Punjabis, the capital’s most vivacious and vocal component, who are used to having a sizable say in Delhi’s matters? Similarly, what about the Muslims, who had gravitated and flocked to the AAP, exiting from the Congress since they believed that the new party was in a better position to defeat the BJP? The Sikhs, too, had supported the organisation, which spurred on Kejriwal to flex his muscles in Punjab to challenge the Akalis, the BJP and the Grand Old Party.
There is no denying that the AAP is in a secure position in the capital, given that the BJP MPs and its corporators have not been able to generate sufficient goodwill, despite winning handsomely in the Parliamentary polls of 2014 and the municipal elections of 2017. The Congress is struggling to keep its head above the water and its voter base is shrinking by the day. Therefore, it was politically imperative that the communities which had, in the past, been the backbone of the BJP and the Congress, should have been wooed over by the AAP.
Kumar Vishwas, a founding member, who has openly expressed his resentment, was never in the reckoning, especially after Kejriwal did not attend his birthday bash last year, on learning that he had invited the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval and Delhi’s former Police Commissioner, Bhim Sain Bassi to the function. In fact, the Chief Minister is said to have returned home from India Gate when he received the news.
The Rajya Sabha issue could have been addressed in a more suitable manner; there should have been no reason to make public, offers made to the reluctant former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan and Justice T.S. Thakur. Thakur’s response itself would have ignited a debate wherein the reason he cited for not entering public life was, in his perception, the vindictive approach of the Central government. Similarly, why ever for was Yashwant Sinha approached if he was to be excluded?
The Congress has made questionable choices for Parliament, and the BJP’s selection of some of its Chief Ministers, and those holding constitutional positions, has defied logic. Kejriwal will surely respond to his critics, since he is one who holds his ground. However, the timing will be of his own choosing. Between us.