‘We have a presence in 33 of 35 districts,” says State convener

After its impressive debut in the Delhi Assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party plans to contest both the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Maharashtra next year.

The party spearheaded a campaign against corruption in the State’s irrigation sector in 2012. A few months ago, it also exposed irregularities in the auction of sugar factories controlled by politicians.

“We have a presence in 33 of the 35 districts and Maharashtra will be a focus. But the number of seats we contest will depend on the decision of our national executive which is meeting soon,” said AAP convener for Maharashtra Anjali Damania.

“We have appealed to activists, volunteers and retired bureaucrats to join our movement,” she added. A former official Vijay Pandhare, a whistle-blower in the irrigation scam, has already joined the party.

Among the places where the AAP plans to field candidates is Ahmednagar, home turf of anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare with whom Arvind Kejriwal parted company to start the political party. “We respect Mr Hazare’s sentiments that he does not want to get involved in electoral politics. But we have a strong base in that region and will be looking at fielding candidates there,” said Mayank Gandhi from the AAP.

Reacting to the AAP foray, Nationalist Congress Party spokesman Nawab Malik said: “In a democracy, every party has the right to contest an election. And we must consider every party contesting against us as a challenge.”

But BJP leader Vinod Tawde was dismissive of the new party. “The AAP got the response it did because of Anna Hazare’s agitation on the Lokpal Bill, which was centred in Delhi. Maharashtra did not feel the impact to that extent. Also Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO had a base in Delhi. The AAP does not have the same following or leaders here.”

An editorial in the Shiv Sena’s Saamna said: “In its debut, the AAP has halted both the Congress and the BJP. Kejriwal has successfully fought a strong challenge from the Congress and Narendra Modi. It is a challenge for political parties across the country.”