In a development that could spell more trouble for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, four sitting Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members of the Delhi Legislative Assembly have expressed their wish to join the Congress party to senior Congress leaders.
The decision to induct them rests with the Delhi Congress chief, Ajay Maken. When HuffPost India asked Ajay Maken whether he would considering taking AAP lawmakers into the fold, he said, "It is a matter of strategy, but I do not wish to comment on it further."
P.C. Chacko, the All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Delhi, confirmed to HuffPost India that AAP lawmakers had approached Congress party leaders in the last six months, and said that party vice president Rahul Gandhi had also been apprised of the development.
Chacko said that the AAP MLAs were insisting that candidates of their choice be allowed to contest MCD elections on the Congress ticket. "That is not possible," he added. "We have people who have been working for a long time and we need to think about them first. This is the real problem."
The Congress sources added that the MLAs have claimed that they could bring a total of 31 sitting AAP MLAs to Congress with them. However, accommodating the AAP MLAs — as well as their candidates of choice for the upcoming Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls would involve elbowing out current party leaders and that is giving the party a moment of pause. The Congress is also concerned about the anti-incumbency factor against the AAP leaders. On the other hand, according to an internal assessment, the Congress party is unlikely to win more than 40 seats in the upcoming MCD polls.
According to sources within the Congress who wished to remain anonymous, the four AAP MLAs who have approached senior leaders Digvijaya Singh and Ahmed Patel in the past two weeks are Devinder Sehrawat, Mohammad Ishraque, Aseem Ahmed Khan and Sandeep Kumar. The four have reportedly expressed their discomfort over Kejriwal's authoritarian style of working.
However, when contacted by HuffPost India, both Ishraque and Khan denied that they were in talks to join the Congress Party. Sehrawat did not respond to calls.
Kumar, the former Women and Child Development Minister in the Delhi government, was sacked from his post over a sex tape allegedly featuring him with a woman. Khan, the former food minister in the Delhi government, was fired from the cabinet for alleged corruption. Sehrawat was suspended from the party after he wrote to Kejriwal alleging that leaders in the party in Punjab were exploiting women in return for tickets.
AAP sources said that three of the above-mentioned AAP MLAs - Sehrawat, Khan and Kumar - had been at loggerheads with the party leadership for months. "Most of them through their actions, which are in the public domain now, have embarrassed AAP. There have been charged of corruption and of rape. If the Congress find them suitable then people should rethink the Congress," Saurabh Bharadwaj, AAP's lawmaker from Greater Kailash and party spokesperson told HuffPost India.
On whether 31 MLAs would follow, Bharadwaj said, "This is coming out of the shallow imagination of Mr. Makan."
The run up to the MCD election has already seen some party hopping. The AAP councillor from Nanakpura, Anil Malik, joined the Congress in February. And, on Tuesday, the BJP councillor from Govindpuri, Chander Prakash, switched over to the Congress party.
Earlier this week, the AAP lawmaker from Bawana, Ved Prakash, joined the BJP. Former Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay claimed earlier this month that AAP was heading for a split because of the party's poor performance in Punjab and Goa.