She may have created a flutter by contesting against former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari from his home turf Nagpur, but Anjali Damania's candidature has caused a discord in the local Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) unit because of her being a perceived as an outsider in the city.
Damania's presence has added colour to the fight, which has Gadkari, incumbent Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar and BSP's Dr Mohan Gaikwad in the fray. The pathologist, who is a familiar face on television debates, had leveled allegations against Gadkari in the past.
While AAP leader Mohan Karemore quit in protest after Damania's candidature was announced, as she hails from Mumbai and not Vidarbha, another leader Jammu Anand was suspended from the party's primary membership, allegedly at the behest of pro-Hindutva groups in the party. Karemore is now contesting as a candidate of his National Aam Aadmi Party (NAAP).
Apart from Karemore, social activist and scholar Dr Rupa Kulkarni Bodhi, who heads a formidable body of household help — the Molkarin Sanghatana — was also in the fray for the AAP nomination from Nagpur.
However, Damania claimed that she was getting a "huge, phenomenal response" in Nagpur and rubbished contentions by her detractors that she was an outsider. "Ask Gadkari why Narendra Modi stays in Gujarat and contests from Varanasi or why Rajnath Singh contests from Lucknow or Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli," she retorted, while speaking to dna, during her road show in Muslim-dominated Mominpura.
"Perhaps there was no capable candidate from Nagpur city and, hence, an outsider was dispatched here," said Karemore, who said he will also field around 10 NAAP nominees from Maharashtra. "This is not Aam Aadmi Party but Khaas Aadmi Party," he alleged, claiming that Damania did not know anything about the political and social realities of Nagpur.
Karemore questioned why the AAP had taken interviews of prospective candidates and made them complete various modalities if it wanted to nominate Damania.
Karemore, who is an RTI activist and former state organiser of the Hindu Mahasabha, claimed around 2,500 to 3,000 people had quit AAP in protest against an "outsider" being nominated. He lashed out at the AAP leadership for "cheating the people of Delhi and trying to do the same to the citizens of Nagpur and Maharashtra".
Anand, a former Communist Party of India leader and trade unionist, said, "Anjali's purpose of contesting from Nagpur is a mystery." He alleged that he had been suspended from the party's primary membership for "unknown reasons", allegedly at the behest of RSS sympathisers in the committee.
"They have an understanding... with Nitin Gadkari through the common DNA of the RSS," he charged, adding that that's why he was supporting Muttemwar, who had the potential to defeat Gadkari.
Anand, who also leads the conservancy workers of Nagpur, said this discord over the candidature had "put a spoke in AAP's wheels" and made it lose the momentum it has acquired in the preceding weeks.
Damania, who had party chief Arvind Kejriwal campaign for her, denied any rift in AAP's Nagpur unit over her nomination, and pointed to Karemore's Hindu Mahasabha background. She said he had "been sent by BJP to AAP" and added that Anand had a dispute with the local unit. Damania added that after her victory in Nagpur, she will shift to the city.