There was fresh controversy in the Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday, after two of its candidates returned their tickets, and a third was reported to have done the same.
Mahender Singh, the Delhi North West candidate, alleged that Rakhi Birla, former cabinet minister in the Delhi government had asked him for money in return for campaigning for him.
Khalid Parvaiz, the AAP candidate from Moradabad “gave up” his ticket after suggestions that he had defaulted on a bank loan. There were reports that Iqbal Mustafa from Faizabad too may have returned his ticket.
Mahender Singh said, “I am disappointed with the response that I have received from the local unit of the party. Further, when I asked Rakhi Birla to campaign for the party’s benefit in the area which is reserved for lower castes, she asked me for Rs 7 lakh, and said she was the party’s star campaigner. However I will continue to work within the party.”
AAP sources said Singh’s winnability was in doubt, and that Birla, who was the party’s Dalit face in the Delhi government, may now contest the seat. If that happens, it could be the trigger for another controversy because the AAP political affairs committee had last month said that no MLA would be given a Lok Sabha ticket.
Parvaiz, who faces allegations of default on loans, said, “The party knew of the entire bank issue, but after they got complaints, I decided to pull out to avoid a controversy. My image was being maligned.”
AAP spokesperson Nagender Sharma said, “They have both resigned because of personal reasons.”
But party sources maintained that they had received numerous complaints about both Singh and Parvaiz being “tainted”, and had therefore asked them to step aside. “We received information that we did not have earlier, that there were criminal complaints against Singh, and that Parvaiz had problems with the return of money,” a leader said.
AAP officials conceded that the return of the tickets indicated a larger problem with the manner in which nominees were chosen.
“Because of the paucity of time, things have at time been rushed. Therefore there are chances that there have been some miscalculations, and sometimes not everybody has been taken on board, However, the party is firm that if something wrong is found with candidates, we will withdraw their candidature,” a leader said.
The latest churn follows the withdrawal from the race of Savita Bhatti, wife of the late Jaspal Bhatti, in Chandigarh, claiming she was getting very little support from the party’s local unit. Actor Gul Panag is now the AAP candidate at the seat.