Chunk of AAP votes shifted to Congress: Alka Lamba

Alka Lamba (Image courtesy Twitter)

Alka Lamba, the AAP MLA from Chandni Chowk in Delhi, won't call herself a rebel in the party while insisting she is still with the party. She complains that the party has sidelined her because she raises issues and wants inner-party discussions. AAP leadership believes Lamba is not in sync with the party and may return to Congress. Lamba believes her party is on a sticky wicket and the Lok Sabha results could have an adverse impact on AAP's chances in the Assembly elections slated early next year.

Alka spoke to DH's Shemin Joy on the political scenario in the national capital.

Delhi is in the midst of Lok Sabha elections. You have closely seen the elections in the capital. Where is Delhi elections headed to this time?

It is very difficult to tell you right now. The picture will be more clear closer to the election. One thing I can tell you is that there is no wave in favour of any party. There is definitely anti-incumbency against the BJP government and especially against their sitting MPs. At present, people have not made up their minds. I am regularly meeting women in my constituency urging them to come and vote for change. I feel that people are against the central government and the sitting MPs. If there is no division of anti-BJP votes, in some seats BJP will lose. There will be no 7-0 scenario like one we saw in 2014. If there is huge polling, if I can talk about Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha seat, which has a substantial number of minority votes, then the BJP candidate is in trouble.

There are reports about problems between you and AAP. Are the differences still persisting?

Differences still remain. My demand was that I should get the same respect and consideration that other MLAs are getting. I deserve that. In the last five months, I am not able to speak to Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai. They are the three top leaders. I had sought time for a meeting more than once. I didn't get it.

What went wrong between you and AAP?

It started with the resolution in Delhi Assembly on withdrawing Bharat Ratna to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. I opposed it. The party did not like that. Then it was said that I should resign because I am against the party line. That campaign has not ended so far. Then the question of alliance came. My stand was that we should not go to Congress but it should come to us. My point was that we had defeated Congress in 2015. They had zero seats in Assembly and Lok Sabha. I am very much in favour of an alliance to defeat BJP. My suggestion was that we should not take the initiative and let Congress come to us. Why should we show that we are weak? But I was sad as my leader was very impatient. He spoke about it continuously in public meetings and on social media. Many of those who voted for us earlier became sad at this.

I conveyed this to the party and the party was upset that I have this view. They started having a feeling that I am a problem. Why Alka Lamba keeps raising issues while other MLAs are not? If others are not talking, it is their choice. My choice is different. I have to reflect public opinion to the party. There were also questions from public why AAP is getting into Punjab, Haryana, Goa and all. People gave us examples of Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik who have made West Bengal and Odisha their strongholds. They were telling us not to loosen the grip on Delhi and don't be in a haste to expand. Again, they felt that I was going against party line. They did not like it.

Whom do you think is working against you in the party?

I don't know who are against me within the party. AAP spokesperson and MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj challenged me on social media to ask my voters whether I should continue as an MLA. I accepted the challenge and invited him to my constituency. I said I will invite media, I will invite people and ask whether I should resign and sit at home. It is a different question whether I will join Congress or not. But he backed off. But my voters till today want me as their MLA. It was spread that I wanted to be a minister. They made me spokesperson, they removed me. I never went to media. Why are you not expelling MLA Kapil Mishra, who is openly campaigning for BJP. Why are you not expelling MLAs Asim Ahmed Khan and Colonel Devender Sherawat? When we were working hard in Goa and Punjab, these were the people who worked against AAP. What wrong did I commit? Only thing I demanded was respect. I was never against the party, I am not against the party now. If the party thinks that I am committing indiscipline by airing public opinion inside party forum, then this party's end is very near. Every party works through consensus. That is not happening here for long time. That is why after a massive victory in 2015 Assembly polls, two years later in municipal polls, we lost badly. We fought and lose Punjab, Goa etc.

AAP is in government for the past four years. In the last four years, has the party gone ahead?

The question how do you see it? Is the glass half full or half empty. People have their own perspectives. Party leadership is telling us that the glass is half full. They tell you that the party was formed in 2012 and see where we are now, that we are in government, we have MLAs, we have municipal councillors, we have won in Punjab. That is a reality. This is the fastest growing party. But in the past six years, you have also committed big mistakes. In 2015, we got 67 MLAs, and in 2017 municipal elections, we lost a huge chunk of votes. We lost in other states too. Candidates lose their deposits. I think AAP it is taking one step forward, no doubt, but at the same time it is also taking two steps backward.

If our candidates do not do good in Lok Sabha elections, we will suffer badly in Assembly elections early next year. If BJP forms the government at the Centre, then it will be trouble for AAP. People have seen the fights between the Centre and the state. People will not want such a situation for the next five years. People would want a government that focusses on its day-to-day work. This election is all about AAP's survival. A chunk of our votes have shifted to Congress and I think in the Lok Sabha elections, it will shift more.

You think there will be a shift of AAP votes to Congress? Are you seeing any such trend?

Minorities, Dalits and all are thinking. They feel that they have suffered in the Modi regime. Congress is a step ahead of us, if you ask me specifically about Chandni Chowk. At present, the voter is looking at who can defeat BJP and Modi. For Congress, its candidate is a known face. AAP's plus point is that all the ten Assembly seats in Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha constituency belong to us.

You have worked with Congress, now you are with AAP. There are also talks that you are returning to Congress. What is the difference with both the parties?

It is a story planted by a group of AAP MLAs that I am returning to Congress, especially after the Rajiv Gandhi episode. There is a group which spreads canards like that she will leave the party any time, that she is joining Congress and she is getting a ticket. So I tweeted, please wait till April 23, the last day of nominations. They got my response. I am still in the party and I did not join Congress. These were all part of a game to create an atmosphere against me. I felt sometimes that why I am chosen to put forward a line that I don't agree with. I am not against the party but my opinion may be against the line. I never came out in public and said anything.

How will it affect Assembly polls?

If we do not win or if we slip to third position, it will have a huge impact on AAP's prospects in Assembly polls. If our votes get shifted to Congress and then BJP wins due to division of votes, it will have an impact on AAP.

Several prominent leaders like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav have left the party. Leaders like Kumar Vishwas are not in good books. Why is it that there is lot of division in AAP?

All these leaders you mentioned have their own standing. It appears that anyone, who has a standing of their own, are being shown the door one by one. When the issue of Rajya Sabha seats came, it was shocking to us. We were thinking that three among Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh, Ashish Khetan and Kumar Vishwas Khetan would get it. When Sanjay Singh's name was first announced, we welcomed it. But then two names were announced. We don't know what their role in the anti-corruption movement was, what is their contribution to the party? Then there were talks about the involvement of money in their selection. It was becoming difficult to explain to people. They were chosen by ignoring the claims of people who worked in the party.

When the names of two other than Singh were announced during a meeting at Chief Minister's residence, I was the only MLA who walked out. I said I don't support a person whom I don't know at all. I didn't tell outside what I said inside. They did not like that I spoke. There is only one man in the party. That is the reality. He doesn't talk to anyone, he doesn't consult anyone. It was getting difficult to explain to people certain decisions by the party like appearing in RJD rally and swearing in of H D Kumaraswamy. He took those decisions without consulting. A perception was being built among public that we are also like any other party. That had an adverse impact on AAP. 

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