In a setback for the Aam Aadmi Party, its candidate for the Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat Savita Bhatti withdrew from the contest on Sunday because of divisions in the city unit of the party.
Bhatti, who conveyed her decision to the party leadership in an email, told Chandigarh Newsline that she had been feeling suffocated over the past one week.
“I am used to working in a different kind of atmosphere, I am not made for politics. There is no proper unit of the party in Chandigarh. With the elections barely a month away, there is not enough time to prepare. That is why I have decided not to contest the election,” she said.
As the news of her withdrawal spread, party workers gathered at her residence and raised slogans in her favour.
Bhatti’s candidature had met with opposition from a section of AAP volunteers. They complained that she was picked by the senior party leaders in Delhi without consultation at the local level.
Asked about Bhatti’s withdrawal, AAP co-ordinator of the Chandigarh unit Rajiv Godara said that he was out of the city and had been trying to get in touch with Bhatti, but could not.
“She has not informed me about her decision. When I got to know, I tried getting in touch with her. Any further decision would be taken by the leadership in Delhi,” he said.
Godara said that the party was united in supporting Bhatti, everyone was working for her and wanted her to win.
After being named as the candidate on March 1, Bhatti had enthusiastically started her campaign from the Sector 17 plaza, which had been the venue for her late husband actor-satirist Jaspal Bhatti’s funny plays, some of them being against corruption. However, several volunteers of the party stayed away. At the subsequent meetings that Bhatti had with the party workers, she reportedly received a lukewarm response.
Around 200 aspirants had applied for the AAP ticket from Chandigarh. Of them, 31 were shortlisted after a scrutiny of applications. Some were called for an interview to Delhi, but none of them was selected.
Since Bhatti’s name was not among those who had been shortlisted, naming her as the candidate evoked resentment from among some sections of the party and this was conveyed to the senior AAP leaders.
Chandigarh is one of the Lok Sabha seats which, according to some surveys, the AAP could win. With just a month to go for the election, the party now has to find another candidate and put its city house in order.