Unwilling to overcome their misgivings about Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Congress party’s Delhi unit on Tuesday rejected the possibility of a pre-poll alliance with the AAP for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.
The BJP had won all the seven seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and a split in vote between the Congress and AAP could repeat the result in the city-state. The BJP has a consistent 33 to 36 per cent vote share in Delhi.
As in the case with West Bengal, where the local Congress unit has opposed any truck with the Trinamool Congress, party President Rahul Gandhi bowed to the wishes of the party’s Delhi unit that decided against an alliance with the AAP. Senior leaders of the Congress party’s Delhi unit, including Delhi unit chief Sheila Dikshit, met the Congress chief for nearly two hours in the morning. They conveyed to him their opposition to an alliance with AAP. “We have unanimously decided that we will not have an alliance with the AAP and we will contest alone and will emerge stronger,” Dikshit said.
Kejriwal accused the Congress of helping the BJP. “At a time when the whole country wants to defeat Modi- Shah duo, Cong is helping BJP by splitting the anti-BJP vote. Rumours are that the Congress has some secret understanding with the BJP. Delhi is ready to fight against a Cong-BJP alliance. People will defeat this unholy alliance,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Some of the senior Congress leaders, including party treasurer Ahmed Patel and Delhi in-charge P C Chacko, favour an AAP and Congress alliance in the context of the Congress objective of defeating the BJP nationally. However, the Congress party’s local unit was unmoved.
Party leaders pointed to Kejriwal’s record both as the leader of the anti-corruption movement and later AAP that campaigned against the Congress party. Leaders said Kejriwal was an “unreliable ally”. Party leaders also say Kejriwal is desperate to have an alliance since he is under investigation by probe agencies.
The Congress has struck alliances in several states, including in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha. Apart from Delhi and Bengal, the other exception is Andhra Pradesh, where again the party local unit is opposed to any alliance with the Telugu Desam Party. The Punjab unit of the Congress is also opposed to any alliance with the AAP in that state. In 2014, the AAP had won four of the 13-seats of Punjab.
According to Congress sources, Gandhi agreed with the assessment of the local leadership that the party needed to strengthen its organisation for the assembly polls in Delhi slated for early 2020.
The Congress is in the process of picking its candidates for Delhi’s seven seats. It has received 100 applications and the screening committee is to meet later this week to finalise the names. The AAP has also declared candidates on six of the seven seats.
AAP leader and Delhi minister Gopal Rai said the BJP had helped the Congress win in Punjab in the 2017 Assembly polls, the Congress is unofficially helping the BJP win Delhi now. Several opposition leaders,k including Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Andhra CM N Chandrababu Naidu, had wanted the Congress to have an alliance with AAP.
The AAP had suggested a formula of three seats each for AAP and Congress and leaving one seat for an independent candidate, possibly former union minister Yashwant Sinha.