The Chhattsigarh chapter of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not received any request from tribal school teacher Soni Sori seeking nomination to contest in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election from the sensitive Bastar constituency. While the party has received hundreds of applications from across the State, Ms. Sori’s application is “yet to arrive” in the party office, said AAP’s State Convener Sanket Thakur. The party has decided to field candidates in all the 11 seats in the State.
The State chapter of the AAP has not received any request from Ms. Sori or any of the central leaders to field the tribal rights activist as a candidate. “Hence, we will not discuss the issue when our central leaders arrive here to discuss prospects and the problems of the party in Chhattisgarh,” said Dr. Thakur. So far the AAP-Chhattisgarh has long-listed more than 50 applicants. “We will be discussing about fielding those applicants,” Dr. Thakur said. However, he has not denied the possibility of fielding candidates whose names were not in the list. “If we cannot get the suitable candidate in every seat, [we] have to look for acceptable candidates with a clean image,” he said. A central team of the AAP, led by Pankaj Gupta, would visit Chhattisgarh shortly to finalise the candidates.
Earlier Ms. Sori told The Hindu that she had accepted the AAP’s offer to contest from Bastar. While senior member of the AAP, Prashant Bhushan, confirmed her nomination, many central leaders denied giving her a ticket. The State leaders were also reluctant to accept Ms. Sori as a candidate.
“Nominating Ms. Sori would project us as a party close to the Naxalites, as she was arrested as a Maoist conduit — rightly or wrongly. This will impact our votes in nine out of 11 Lok Sabha seats in the State outside Bastar Division,” said a party official in the State, on condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday morning, AAP officials rushed to Governor Shekhar Dutt to demand the arrest of BJP MP Sohan Potai. The kingpin of Maoist’s urban network, Dharmendra Chopra (who was arrested last month) was picked-up from Mr. Potai’s car, police said. “But Mr. Potai has not been arrested so far and we have given a memorandum to the Governor seeking his arrest,” said Dr. Thakur. Raising the issue of Maoists’ contact with the Chhattisgarh’s civil society at a time when Ms. Sori was seeking a nomination was interpreted by many as an attempt to block Ms. Sori’s candidature in the State.
Soon after the Assembly election results were declared in December, the AAP started its membership drive in the State. In about a month, more than one lakh members were registered. More than 30 outlets were opened here to register new members and each outlet was registering nearly 300 members every day, as witnessed by The Hindu. However, the excitement reduced substantially by late January and the party removed many of the outlets. Interestingly, in the past week, since party chief Arvind Kejriwal resigned from his post as Delhi Chief Minister, the AAP has again started getting calls from prospective members. So far, the party has registered 2.30 lakh members in the State.
Denying ‘rumours’ in social media speculating the AAP’s plan to field human rights activist Binayak Sen as a candidate from here, Dr. Thakur said he was “not aware” of any such decision.