The Congress on Thursday appointed former Delhi minister Arvinder Singh Lovely as the president of its Delhi unit, replacing Anil Chaudhary, who served in the post for three-and-a-half years.
The move is significant as it comes ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and Lovely is considered close to the party high command. The 54-year-old is also considered less hawkish on an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party — the Congress and the AAP are both members of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc — unlike other Delhi Congress leaders.
The All India Congress Committee (AICC), in a statement, said, “Congress president has appointed Arvinder Singh Lovely as the president of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee with immediate effect. The party appreciates the contribution of the outgoing PCC president Anil Chaudhary.”
This will be Lovely’s second term as Delhi Congress president.
Speaking to HT, Lovely said “I will work to strengthen the party in the Capital. When it was in power, the Congress government did a lot of work for the transformation of Delhi. Due to the prevailing situation in the country, people are turning towards Rahul Gandhi. The people of Delhi and the country miss the Congress government. We will reach out to the people and become their voice.”
When asked whether the Congress will contest the Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the AAP in Delhi, Lovely said, “My role is to strengthen the party in Delhi. Delhi Congress will follow the directions of the party high command on contesting elections.”
A senior Congress functionary, declining to be named, said Lovely has a rich organisational experience, which the party wants to utilise in the Lok Sabha polls. “Lovely has been considered one of the leaders trusted by the Congress leadership. He can also play an important role in managing the party workers and convince them to follow the party’s decision in case Congress forges an alliance with the AAP for the Lok Sabha polls,” said the functionary.
“Unlike many Delhi Congress leaders, Lovely is not very vocal against the AAP government.”
Lovely shot into the limelight in 1998, when he contested and won the Delhi assembly elections from the Gandhi Nagar constituency. He subsequently served as a minister in the Sheila Dixit government, handling key portfolios such as education, revenue, urban development, and transport.
Lovely was the Delhi Congress president in 2015, when the party was decimated in the assembly elections, drawing a blank in the 70-member House. Lovely then went into hibernation, and surprised everyone by joining the Delhi BJP ahead of the 2017 Delhi municipal polls, but returned to the Congress fold just nine months later. He contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election from the East Delhi constituency, losing to BJP’s Gautam Gambhir.
A second Congress functionary, also declining to be named, said, “Lovely is a key Sikh face in the Delhi Congress. He also holds significant influence in east Delhi and brings on board the rich organisational skills required to build the Congress in a state where it has been virtually out of power for the last 10 years.”
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said that it is the Congress’s prerogative to appoint anyone as its Delhi unit president. “The ground-level Congress supporters must be praying that Lovely does not accept Kejriwal as his leader as a part of unholy alliance politics,” said Kapoor.
Spokespersons for the Aam Aadmi Party did not respond to requests for comment.