A little over two weeks after he was given an AAP ticket from reserved Northwest Delhi constituency, Mahender Singh withdrew his candidature on Tuesday alleging that he received little support from the party’s local units. He also alleged that former Delhi minister Rakhi Birla demanded Rs 7 lakh when he asked her to campaign for him. The party has denied the allegations.
Singh’s exit, however, seemed to have cleared the way for Birla. Sources in the AAP late on Tuesday said Birla would now be the candidate from the constituency. The decision was confirmed after a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the party at Arvind Kejriwal’s residence.
“It has been decided that Mahender Singh will no longer be the candidate and, in all likelihood, Rakhi Birla will be the candidate from Northwest Delhi. Her candidature will be confirmed in the next few days,” a party leader said.
According to Singh, he was disenchanted after he got little support from the AAP’s local unit. “There were forces working against me that compelled me to resign. When I asked Rakhi Birla to campaign for me in my constituency, she asked me for Rs 7 lakh as she was a star campaigner. I also heard that the party was going to replace me with Birla. Hence, I stepped down of my own volition,” Singh said.
AAP spokesperson Nagender Sharma said, “He has resigned because of personal reasons.” Sources in the AAP also denied the charges levelled by Singh and said he had not conveyed these issues to party leaders.
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“Even on Tuesday morning, he did not bring these issues up. People from the party’s local unit were also speaking against his candidature. When he got wind that we might remove his name, he manufactured these allegations against Birla.” a party leader said.
In the weeks leading to Singh’s declaration as candidate, speculation had been rife that Birla would be the Northwest Delhi candidate. However, after protests by party workers, the PAC had decided that no sitting MLA would be given a ticket.
While party sources admitted that the present move to declare Birla was contradictory to the PAC’s decision at that time, they said they had little choice. “In a reserved seat, with such little time remaining, there is very little choice. She (Birla) has emerged as a powerful Dalit face and will bring in lots of support,” a party leader said.