Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Atishi Marlena, chosen as the party’s candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha election from East Delhi constituency, has dropped her last name. The party has refuted reports that it had forced her ‘Christian sounding’ last name.

Akshay Marathe, an AAP joint secretary, said that Atishi was not forced to drop her last name, adding that ‘Marlena’ was a given name while her real surname is Singh.

“No one has forced Atishi to ‘drop’ her last name. She has always been Atishi. Marlena was a given name, while her surname is Singh,” said Marathe.

He added that Atishi is a “progressive politician”, who does not use her caste name Singh because she does not want to encourage caste-based politics.

“A progressive politician like @AtishiAAP who DOES NOT use her caste name ‘Singh’ to ask for votes, is being targeted for using only Atishi without ‘Marlena’. Our discourse is around education and healthcare, not on identities of caste and religion (sic),” tweeted Marathe.

Atishi’s Twitter handle has changed from @Atishimarlena to @AtishiAAP and her name has also been changed on the party’s website. Moreover, her name is also being removed from banners, posters, hoardings and poll pamphlets.

Several media reports have said that her parents, Dr Tripta Wahi and Dr Vijay Singh, being committed Leftists, gave her a title combining Marx & Lenin.

It has also been reported that AAP was forced to take the decision to dodge attacks from the BJP as the saffron party has already started spreading rumours that Atishi was a Christian and a foreigner.

Atishi is the first AAP leader to be named as candidate by the party for next year’s general election. She has studied at the Oxford University and Delhi’s St Stephen’s College.