New Delhi: The AAP on Wednesday named veteran leader Sanjay Singh, businessman Sushil Gupta and chartered accountant Narain Dass Gupta as its debutants for the Rajya Sabha, sparking criticism from founding member Kumar Vishwas and other political parties.
The decision was finalised at a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), the AAP's highest decision making body, at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence. The meeting was attended by an overwhelming majority of Aam Aadmi Party MLAs.
Three Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi will fall vacant by the end of this month when the tenure of Congress members Janardhan Dwivedi, Parvez Hashmi and Karan Singh end.
It would be for the first time that the AAP, which officially has 66 members in the 70-member Delhi Assembly including some dissidents, will elect members to the upper house. The Congress has no presence in the House.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, announcing the names of the three nominees, said party convenor Kejriwal wanted a "mix" of people from outside and those already associated with the party.
He said Kejriwal wanted to nominate people who have contributed in the field of media, economics, law and academics and thus "18 such big names were considered".
"Sanjay Singh has not only been working for the party since the very beginning but has also had a contribution in the fight against corruption," he said.
Sisodia said Narain Gupta, a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, was an expert on taxation who had been keeping a "close eye" on how the Narendra Modi government hastily implemented the Goods and Services Tax.
An alumnus of Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce, Narain Gupta has been on the Board of International Federation of Accountants -- an amalgam of 164 regulatory accounting bodies in 116 countries.
Sisodia said Sushil Gupta had contributed in the education and health sectors in Delhi and Haryana. "He provides free education to 15,000 children."
The selection of the nominees, particularly businessman Sushil Gupta, did not well with Vishwas, who expressed his disappointment over not being considered for the Upper House of Parliament and said he was being "punished" for speaking the truth.
"I congratulate (Sushil) Gupta for working with Sisodia for the last 40 years, with Kejriwal for 12 years, with party workers for seven years and for party legislators for the last five years,
"For the last one-and-a-half years, be it the PAC or my elder brother Arvind's decision on issues like surgical strike, taking a soft stand on terrorists, his silence on ticket distribution and JNU...whatever truth I spoke, I have been punished today," he said.
Vishwas' supporters had picketed the party office demanding that he be sent to Parliament. Clearly blaming Kejriwal for the decision not to nominate him, he said nothing happens in the AAP without Kejriwal's consent. "It is impossible for anyone to survive in the party by speaking against you."
Sisodia, however, said there was no discussion in the party over Vishwas' nomination. "There were discussions in the media, not among the party members," said Sisodia, whose personal friendship with poet-activist Vishwas goes a long way back. The Congress, the BJP and the Swaraj Abhiyan of former AAP leader Yogendra Yadav too criticized the AAP.
Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said Sushil Gupta resigned from the Congress because the AAP promised him a Rajya Sabha nomination. "On November 28, Sushil Gupta came to submit his resignation. Less than 40 days. Less said the better! Otherwise, Sushil is a good man known for his charity," he said.
Sushil Gupta's nomination also triggered an angry reaction from Yogendra Yadav. "Speechless, ashamed and numb," he tweeted. Delhi BJP President Manoj Tiwari hit out at Kejriwal, saying he had "betrayed" the people of Delhi. "Kejriwal came to power seeking to fight corruption. Now, he is sending two businessmen to the Rajya Sabha. He has betrayed not only Delhi but also the whole country." (IANS)