The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will contest the upcoming Assembly elections in Rajasthan in a bid to provide a political “alternative” to the state, the party announced Wednesday, adding that Deepak Bajpai will be the party’s in-charge for the state, replacing dissident Kumar Vishwas, who held the post for less than a year.
While announcing its intent to contest polls in the state — a decision taken in the party’s Political Affairs Committee on Monday — the AAP also explained its strategy. “Preparations have been continuously going on for polls in the state. The party had sent Deepak Bajpai to Rajasthan, where he toured the state, met workers and assessed the ground situation. For the past month-and-a-half, he has been based there and working to strengthen the organisation, identifying potential candidates and briefing the party,” AAP national spokesperson Ashutosh said.
He added, “Deepak Bajpai will be the in-charge of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan. Kumar Vishwas was not able to devote time for election preparations due to his preoccupations… Bajpai will stay there, decide the strategy for the party, strengthen its base, stay in touch with the party’s senior leaders and decide the party’s candidates.”
Vishwas had been made the Rajasthan in-charge in May 2017 in a move that many within the party and outside viewed as a bid to placate him. At the time, the party had seemed to be at the brink of a break, with Vishwas threatening to quit after AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan accused him of being an “RSS-BJP agent”.
Although Khan was suspended afterwards, the decision was revoked five months later. Meanwhile, the distance between Vishwas and the party’s leadership grew. The AAP founder made an unsuccessful bid for a Rajya Sabha candidature, and has since repeatedly struck out at AAP’s leadership, including Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
Although Vishwas refused to comment, instead sharing poetry on social media, his office issued a statement that alleged that the AAP founder had not been intimated about the move, nor had he been informed about the PAC meeting. “We came to know from the media that Vishwas has been removed as the Rajasthan in-charge. There has been no communication from the party,” his office said, alleging that “Vishwas was not intimated about any meeting, even though he is a PAC member”.
“The fact that the meeting was held in such a manner clearly means that Vishwas was made the Rajasthan in-charge not to further AAP’s political footprint, but only as a way to shut down criticism following the Amanatullah controversy,” it added.
Party leaders, however, maintained that removing Vishwas was linked to his own performance in the state in the past 11 months. “He has barely worked in the state. The past month, he was been busy travelling due to his existing preoccupations related to his career as an orator. The party is trying to position itself as a third option to the people of Rajasthan, and for that we can’t make do with a part-time state in-charge,” said a senior leader.