New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Friday announced a list of high-profile politicians, including several cabinet ministers, against whom it said it will field candidates in the coming general election, even as it attempts to return its focus to the fight for honesty in public life that helped catapult it to power in Delhi state.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s cabinet also decided on Friday to summon a special open session of the state legislative assembly on 16 February at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium instead of the assembly building to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill that seeks to establish an ombudsman to probe corruption charges in high offices.
The twin announcements were aimed at reinforcing its credentials as an alternative to both the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Passage of the Jan Lokpal Bill was a key promise made by the AAP in the run-up to last year’s Delhi assembly election, in which it made a stunning debut.
As in its oath-taking ceremony at the vast Ramlila grounds, the AAP wants members of the public to attend the vote on the Jan Lokpal Bill on the last day of the assembly session.
Officials said the Delhi cabinet’s decision on convening the assembly session will have to be cleared by lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung.
The Delhi cabinet is expected to clear the draft Bill on 3 February.
Corruption and criminalization of politics will be the two key campaign issues for the AAP at the general election due by May, it said after a meeting of its top decision-making body, the National Executive, on Thursday.
Kejriwal on Friday announced a list of politicians against whom the AAP will field candidates. The list includes Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Union ministers P. Chidambaram and Sushilkumar Shinde, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh, former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leaders M. Alagiri and A. Raja.
Addressing the party’s National Council meeting attended by AAP volunteers from across the country, Kejriwal said on Friday, “I have prepared a list of the dishonest (politicians) of the country. If you come across any honest politician in the list, then please tell me. I am asking for the country’s approval on whether to defeat (these politicians) or send them to the Parliament."
The list also included: Union ministers Kapil Sibal, G.K. Vasan, Salman Khurshid, M. Veerappa Moily, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Kamal Nath, and former minister Pawan Kumar Bansal as well as MPs Naveen Jindal, Avtar Singh Bhadana, Anu Tandon and Suresh Kalmadi, and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
With this move, the AAP, which faced criticism for its recent public agitation against the Delhi Police and the controversy surrounding its law minister Somnath Bharti, is trying to outsmart both the Congress and the BJP, political observers said.
Sanjay Kumar, a political analyst from New Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said the AAP wanted to “send a clear message that it is to hit equally at the BJP and the Congress".
He added that with these moves, the AAP was also trying to dominate the public space. “It has already said the Congress is out of contest and they are no longer spoilers, but seriously contesting against both the parties," Kumar said.
The AAP, an offshoot of the anti-graft movement spearheaded by veteran activist Anna Hazare, had promised in its Delhi election manifesto that it would introduce anti-graft legislation within 15 days of forming the government.
Kejriwal, whose party won 28 seats in the 70-member assembly, formed a minority government in December with the outside support of the 8-member Congress legislative party.
A PTI report said the Delhi government is mulling fixing six months as the time limit to complete investigations in corruption cases. The draft Bill, prepared by a committee headed by the chief secretary, has also brought in the chief minister’s office under the ambit of the Lokayukta.
Both the Congress and the BJP condemned Kejriwal for making baseless allegations.
“This holier than thou attitude that the AAP is exercising; are they the court of the land? Who gave them the authority (to accuse the political leaders)? Irrespective of whether it’s a Congress leader or not, who is AAP to decide whether someone is corrupt or not," said Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza.
BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi condemned the move. “We condemn the allegations made by Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party. They should either apologize for the baseless allegations or we are keeping all options open, including legal option. Arvind Kejriwal has been making allegations against BJP leaders, but so far he has not given any evidence," he said.
Trivedi added: “Arvind Kejriwal holds a constitutional post and he must understand the responsibility that comes with the post. He cannot make false allegations against BJP leaders without any evidence."
While Congress ministers maintained silence on the list, Abdullah said he was amused.
“I am happy that my name figured in the list. I will go to the court and answer... I will ask him (Kejriwal) also," Abdullah told reporters after calling on DMK chief M. Karunanidhi at his residence in Chennai.
Gyan Verma and PTI contributed to this story.