After days of brainstorming, the Aam Aadmi Party Saturday zeroed in on its candidate for the upcoming Rajouri Garden bypolls, drawing from one of its old loyalists in west Delhi, Harjeet Singh. A familiar face at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, Harjeet is a high-ranking corporate executive who joined the Anna Hazare Movement in 2013. An active volunteer, he played important roles in Varanasi as well as the Punjab polls. He has been the party’s Vidhan Sabha president in Hari Nagar, working closely with party MLAs in the area. “Despite his high-ranking position, he has been an ardent volunteer at the Bangla Sahib Gurdwara…,” a senior leader said.
AAP, which boasts of being the early bird in most elections and fields its candidates way ahead of others, found itself in a tight spot to finalise a candidate for the bypolls. The west Delhi seat fell vacant after sitting AAP MLA Jarnail Singh resigned to take on Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in Lambi.
As AAP faced a humiliating loss in Punjab, it has been even more embarrassing for Singh to make a comeback. While sources close to him said he has “no funds to contest yet another election”, Singh’s ‘winnability’ too is being questioned. Even as the party was mulling over ways to fund his campaign, a third factor has completely ruled out his chances.
When Singh moved to Punjab to contest the polls, his voter registration was shifted out from Delhi. Now with the bypolls scheduled for April 9, Singh has very little time to shift it back. “The flip-flop would not have gone down well with local voters, who might feel he abandoned his constituency for a bigger responsibility in Punjab. Also, it is a genuine technical problem. There was very little time for him to shift his voter registration back,” said a party functionary.
However, one of Singh’s close aides, said, “He is a modest journalist and does not have so much money to contest yet another election. Over the past three years, he has contested three polls — the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, the Assembly polls in 2015 and now the Punjab polls.”
Party sources said if Singh’s ‘winnability’ was stronger, the party would have funded him. But as the bypolls assume new significance, the top leadership does not want to take a chance. “AAP’s image will take a beating if we lose this seat,” said a leader. Jarnail Singh said, “I will accept whatever the party decides. I have nothing more to say on this.”