AAP leader Atishi Marlena, who has been declared the party’s candidate in the 2019 Lok Sabha election from East Delhi constituency, has dropped her ‘Christian-sounding’ last name ‘Marlena’ from her Twitter handle apparently to dodge attacks from the BJP. However, AAP has refuted the reports that the party had forced her to drop her last name, saying ‘Marlena’ was a given name while her actual surname was ‘Singh’.
While Atishi’s Twitter handle has changed from @Atishimarlena to @AtishiAAP, her name has also been amended on the AAP website. The leader has, however, not given a reason for the recent changes. In fact, Atishi’s last name is also being removed from posters, banners, hoardings and poll pamphlets.
A source told The Indian Express that the party was forced to take the decision as BJP had started a “whisper campaign”, saying Atishi was a Christian and a foreigner. “Was forced to take this decision as BJP started a whisper campaign saying she is a Christian and a foreigner ever since she was declared AAP’s east Delhi in-charge,” the source said.
The source also said Atishi’s surname was ‘Singh’ and she herself decided to stop using ‘Marlena’. “But she never used that. Not even in school. Marlena was her second name give by her communist parents. But she decided to stop using that. It was her own decision,” the source added.
A former adviser to Education Minister Manish Sisodia, Atishi is the first candidate to be announced by AAP for the 2019 elections. She belongs to a Punjabi Rajput family. Several reports said that her parents, Dr Tripta Wahi and Dr Vijay Singh, who were leftists, gave her a title combining Marx and Lenin.
Calling Atishi a progressive politician, AAP joint secretary Akshay Marathe said she does not use her surname ‘Singh’ as she does not encourage caste-based politics. “A progressive politician like Atishi who DOES NOT use her caste name ‘Singh’ to ask for votes, is being targeted for using only Atishi without ‘Marlena’. Our discourse is around education and healthcare, not on identities of caste and religion,” Marathe tweeted.
Hitting out at AAP, AIMIM chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi said this was the reality of Indian politics, where one could not have a “Christian or Muslim-sounding name” to get elected. “This is reality of Indian Electoral Politics to get Elected one cannot have a name which is /might sound like a Christian/Muslim name. That is why we have only 4% Muslims in Lok Sabha out of 14% ,all this “TALK”of Secularism fails at time of Voting,” he tweeted.