Editor’s note: The copy has been updated after AAP’s press conference on a pamphlet allegedly circulated by BJP.
Cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir, who is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate from East Delhi, has made headlines since his entry into politics. He is pitted against Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Atishi and Congress’s Arvinder Singh Lovely from East Delhi.
Since Gambhir’s candidature was announced, the constituency has remained in the limelight due to one controversy after another.
Atishi, during a press conference, on Thursday broke down as the AAP accused Gambhir of circulating a pamphlet with “derogatory” language against her.
Party chief Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, “Never imagined Gautam Gambhir to stoop so low. How can women expect safety if people with such mentality are voted in?”
Gambhir responded to the allegations and said that he will withdraw his candidature if AAP can prove it was done by him.
Gambhir had earlier refused to take up Atishi’s challenge for a debate. In an interview to CNN-News18, Gambhir said that he doesn’t believe in “dharna and debates” and rather believes in “going to the people and telling them about our vision, and try and make them connect with our vision.”
“Debates will take you nowhere, but going on the ground will,” he said.
During a press conference, Atishi had issued an open debate challenge to the cricketer-turned-politician over the issue of development in East Delhi.
We leave it to Twitter to remind Gambhir what he signed up for by agreeing to contest the Lok Sabha elections.
One of the key roles of Parliament is to hold the government accountable and, as PRS points out, MPs can do so by “posing questions to ministers during question hour, initiating debates or calling attention of ministers to important issues”.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during last year’s Winter Session of Parliament, had asked leaders of various political parties to participate in debates, discuss issues of public interest and work towards resolving them.
Controversy over Gambhir’s voter ID
The BJP and AAP candidates for East Delhi have been at loggerheads since the party announced their nominations.
Atishi has accused Gambhir of holding two voter identity cards from Rajender Nagar and Karol Bagh constituencies.
The AAP candidate had filed the complaint against Gambhir for allegedly enrolling as a voter in more than one constituency in violation the Representation of the People Act (RPA).
She had also raised an objection over the nomination papers filed by the former cricketer, but the complaint was rejected by the returning officer of the polls.
Gambhir has, however, reiterated that he has only one voter identity card and that AAP was making baseless allegations against him as it did not have any vision for the people.
The Delhi Police had also lodged a formal complaint against the cricketer-turned-politician for allegedly holding a public meeting in Jangpura without prior permission from the authorities, officials told PTI.
It is not just Gambhir, but also Atishi who has been in the news since her candidature was announced.
Vitriol against Atishi’s surname
Atishi, who has received praise for her work in Delhi’s government schools over the past few years, has been facing a diatribe over her surname (Marlena), which she stopped using last year. After a Congress leader claimed she was a Jew, she and other AAP leaders have unfortunately been reminding voters that she is an upper-caste Hindu. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia warned both the BJP and Congress to beware of her, saying “she is a Rajputani”.
“I am sad that the BJP and Congress together are spreading lies about the religion of our East Delhi candidate,” said Sisodia in a tweet.
“The BJP and Congress men! Be aware that her full name is Atishi Singh. She is a Rajputani. A hardcore Kshatrani... the Queen of Jhansi. Beware! She will win and create history too, Sisodia added in his tweet.
Atishi began facing allegations about her religion after she restored her surname Marlena in her affidavit and nomination paper to the Election Commission. She had dropped her surname last year, saying she feared its misuse by political adversaries.
Former Okhla Congress MLA Asif Khan, in a message on social media, has been allegedly dubbing Atishi as a Jew and asking Muslims not to vote for her.
Asked about his stand on Atishi, Khan told PTI, it is my understanding that she is a Jew and this information is making rounds on social media.”
Atishi responded to the diatribe against her, seeking an explanation from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi.
“I belong to a Punjabi Hindu family, and despite knowing it, former Congress MLA Asif Khan is lying about me and dubbing me as a Jew,” said Atishi.
The AAP candidate kicked up a row recently for saying that people should not hesitate to even vote for goons or thugs to defeat BJP.
Atishi, according to The Indian Express, could be heard saying at a public meeting at Tikona Park that only the SP-BSP alliance could defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and even if their candidates had a criminal background, one should vote for them to keep the saffron party at bay.
While it remains to be seen how Delhi will vote on 12 May, the war of words between the candidates does not bode well for the people in their constituency.
(With PTI inputs)