Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal holds a meeting with AAP MLAs and Councilors, in New Delhi | Photo: ANI
New Delhi: The resignation of two of its ministers, including Manish Sisodia, amid allegations of graft, has thrown a new challenge for the AAP with its rivals using the development to discredit the party's key poll plank of "Kejriwal model of governance".
Sisodia, who was handling 18 of the total 33 departments in the Delhi government, was arrested on Sunday by the CBI in the Delhi excise policy scam case, while Satyendra Jain, currently lodged in Tihar jail, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in May last year in connection with a money laundering case. They both resigned of Tuesday.
The development comes at a time when the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is gearing up to contest all the seats in the assembly elections to be held in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, keeping its "Delhi model of governance" as one of the key planks for the polls.
AAP leaders said the party has become stronger whenever it has been attacked and accused the BJP government of running a "witch-hunt" against its leaders.
Sisodia, sources in party said, besides being the deputy chief minister, had finance, education and public works portfolios, ministries key to the Kejriwal model.
The AAP leadership has "already" asked the party's state units to "intensify" their campaign against the BJP and the Congress in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan which will go to polls this year, the sources said.
The party will turn the table on the BJP with a massive counter-campaign highlighting a range of issues, including allegations of stock manipulation by the Adani Group and the alleged misuse of central probe agencies by its government at the Centre, they said.
The AAP is under attack by the BJP since the CBI registered a case in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation and formulation of the excise policy, now withdrawn, against 15 accused, including Manish Sisodia, who was deputy chief minister.
"The AAP has become stronger whenever it has been attacked and efforts have been made to crush the party. The AAP survived even when it was nothing. Today, we have our government in two states and our members in two other state assemblies," AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj told PTI.
He dubbed Sisodia's arrest by the CBI as political vendetta and accused the Modi government of running "an organised witch-hunt" of the AAP leaders.
A AAP leader also claimed that the resignations by Sisodia and Jain, who are victims of political vendetta, has taken the fizz off the BJP campaign against the party.
Bharadwaj also took on the Congress, saying leaders of the grand old party, who used to call "AAP a B-Team of the BJP and Kejriwal as Modi's 'younger brother'", have gone into "hibernation" today.
"There are a litany of allegations against Rahul Gandhi but he is roaming scot free, taking out Bharat Jodo Yatra while we are facing a continuous attack," he said.
"This has sent out one message that the BJP considers AAP its number one enemy. That's why it keeps making attempts to crush the AAP," he said.
Riding high on its electoral success in Punjab and gains in Gujarat and Goa last year, the AAP is gearing up to contest in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan even though it had failed to open its account in the last assembly elections in these states.
While the AAP stormed to power in Punjab in March last year, it also managed to breach the BJP bastion of Gujarat by winning five seats with a nearly 13 per cent vote share in the polls held in December.
The AAP also gained a toehold in Goa, winning two assembly seats in the coastal state last year. The electoral gains in these three states also paved the way for the AAP to get recognised by the Election Commission (EC) as a national party.
Kejriwal is scheduled to visit these four states to launch his party's foray ahead of elections.
While Kejriwal is scheduled to launch his party's poll campaign in BJP-ruled Karnataka on March 4, he will visit Chhattisgarh and sound the AAP's poll bugle in the Congress-ruled state on March 5.
The AAP supremo will launch his poll campaign in Rajasthan, currently ruled by the Congress, on March 13, and in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh on March 14.
"There is no change in the schedule so far. Kejriwal ji will visit Chhattisgarh on March 5," AAP in-charge of the state Sanjeev Jha, who is camping there for more than a month to lead the party's poll preparations, told PTI.
"There is no impact on the party's poll prospects with the arrest of Sisodia as he is a man with a clean image, known for the revolutionary transformation that he brought in school education in Delhi," he said. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Sisodia on Sunday evening after nearly nine hours of questioning in connection with now-scrapped policy.
In a significant turn of events, Sisodia and his cabinet colleague Jain on Tuesday resigned from the Kejriwal-led Cabinet amidst BJP's persistent onslaught against the AAP over the corruption charges against its leaders.