Days after it dislodged the BJP from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, winning 134 out of 250 seats in the polls, the Aam Aadmi Party got another shot in the arm as the Congress’s Delhi unit vice-president Ali Mehdi and two of the party’s newly elected councillors, Sabila Begum and Nazia Khatoon, joined AAP. Besides, 5-6 others Congress members also joined AAP.
Begum won from ward number 243, Mustafabad, and Nazia Khatoon won from ward number 245, Brij Puri. The Congress managed to win nine seats in the recent MCD polls, though Friday’s development means it will have just seven councillors in the new House.
At a press conference Friday, AAP MLA Durgesh Pathak, a key face in the MCD poll campaign, said the Congress leaders had decided to join the party after seeing the work done by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “CM Kejriwal’s vision is to make Delhi India’s number one city and he also appealed to everyone to make this come true. He aims to make Delhi free of garbage and construct good schools and hospitals. To achieve this, we need support from everyone — BJP, Congress, RWAs, unauthorised colonies… Inspired by the CM’s appeal, honesty and model of governance, senior congress leader Ali Mehdi and two Congress councillors have decided to join AAP. We welcome them into the party,” said Pathak.
On why he joined AAP, Mehdi said: “Kejriwal has done some amazing development work in Delhi. In the beginning, even in the Congress, we used to say all this will change with time. But seeing Kejriwal’s continuous efforts to work for the welfare of people and the city has inspired us. Despite BJP’s attempt to malign AAP, the people of Delhi have completely accepted Kejriwal and his party.”
He added, “Mustafabad is very close to my heart. When my father was in power, he did a lot for the development of the area but under the BJP, nothing was done. We met Kejriwal and he assured us full support and help to develop Mustafabad.”
Displeased with Mehdi’s decision to join AAP, senior congress leader and former AICC secretary Ajay Maken quoted a video of the former attacking Kejriwal and tweeted, “Ali bhai, did not expect this from you. Which form of yours should we consider real? One in AAP’s office or of this public meeting, where you won the election by speaking against AAP? Ups and downs come and go in politics. One’s wishes are not always fulfilled in the party, but party and ideology are paramount. Why did you do this? This is beyond my thinking.”
Hitting out at the AAP, the BJP said the party had expressed fears of ‘Operation Lotus’, but has now launched ‘Operation Loot’. “People of Delhi are amazed to see that AAP leaders, who created drama and accused the BJP of running ‘Operation Lotus’ till yesterday, have started ‘Operation Loot’ and are trying to topple the already toppled Congress party. It is regrettable that those who indulge in political loot malign and make allegations against others and spread false things about the BJP,” said BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor.
The development comes amid apprehensions among both parties of attempts to poach their councillors. While AAP scored a win, it was a narrow one, and its first challenge will be keeping its flock intact.
To this end, sources in the party said it was planning to send some councillors to Punjab. “There was a plan to book a hotel and send our councillors to Punjab initially, but it has been put on hold. If the party notices any attempts by the BJP to buy its councillors, it may go ahead with the plan,” said a source.
Asked if AAP fears ‘Operation Lotus’, Pathak said at the press conference, “We have come across some attempts to buy councillors but the BJP itself has now accepted that they will sit in opposition. We need support of both BJP and Congress to make Delhi clean and we welcome any councillors who want to join AAP and work for MCD. We will ensure councillors get funds for developmental works in wards.”
Party sources also hinted that more councillors may join in the coming days. “The party is in contact with a good number of councillors from both the BJP and Congress. In the coming days, some more councillors from the opposition may join AAP,” said a source.