By Gaurav Sharma and Alok Singh
New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) The AAP has almost decided to pit former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal against Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls if the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate contests from Varanasi.
AAP leader and Kejriwal confidant Manish Sisodia, who is the virtual no. 2 in the AAP, also said his party hopes to field 350-400 candidates in the April-May elections and do particularly well in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
“If Modi contests from Varanasi, then we have almost decided that Arvind Kejriwal will be pitted against him (Modi),” Sisodia told IANS here.
Sisodia, who was education minister in the 49-day AAP government in Delhi, hoped Modi will contest one Lok Sabha seat – not two seats — if he is indeed a mass leader.
“Those who are afraid (of losing) contest from two seats. If he is afraid, he will fight from two seats. Let him decide.”
There is intense speculation that the Bharatiya Janata Party will field the Gujarat chief minister in the temple town of Varanasi in a bid to generate a pro-BJP wave in Uttar Pradesh.
Pressed to confirm that Kejriwal, 45, will be a candidate in the general election, Sisodia replied: “Personally, I feel he (Kejriwal) should contest.”
The AAP, formed in November 2012, has announced 187 candidates for the Lok Sabha battle thus far. It includes a mix of the known and the unknown.
Sisodia said the AAP hoped to do well in Karnataka because people there “are as much fed up with the BJP as the Congress”.
One of the oldest associates of Kejriwal, Sisodia said he and his colleagues were surprised that social activist Anna Hazare had come out in support of the Trinamool Congress and its leader Mamata Banerjee.
“Annaji used to say that he will never support any political party. I am confused whether Annaji is supporting Mamata Banerjee or the Trinamool. It is fine if Annaji is only supporting a leader, not a party.”
Sisodia said people in east Delhi – where he lives – and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh had asked him to contest the election but he said he prefers to campaign for the party.
He denied accusations that Kejriwal and the AAP “ran away” over the Jan Lokpal bill instead of governing Delhi .
“The truth is we did not want to form the government. Circumstances forced us to form a government.
“With 28 MLAs (legislators), the government can last only this long. More numbers are needed to run a stable government.”
Sisodia underplayed the reported bickering within the AAP over ticket distribution and said the party had fielded more journalists than any other party as “they have a fair idea of what is happening on the ground”.
At the same time, he accused sections of the media of unfairly targeting the AAP. “A section of the media is compromised… That are betraying the country. If we do wrong, criticize us. But they are running a smear campaign. Many stories are not based on facts.”
Sisodia claimed that the AAP tour of Gujarat this month had helped expose many claims made by Modi on how the state had been developed.
“Our purpose was to get a fair idea about the condition of schools, hospitals, colleges and youths,” he said, adding that 26 AAP teams visited all the districts in Gujarat.
(Gaurav Sharma and Alok Singh can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org)