Congress says ‘no’ as AAP sends ‘feelers’ for tie-up

New Delhi, Hindustan Times | ByJayanth Jacob and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Jul 07, 2018 11:29 AM IST

Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken says the party does not have confidence in the AAP given that Arvind Kejriwal recently stated that he will supportModi and the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if the central government grants statehood to Delhi.

The Congress decided against forging any understanding with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) after an internal survey and consultations at different levels showed that a tie-up could hurt the prospects of the grand old party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the national capital, the party’s Delhi in-charge PC Chacko said.

A combination photograph of Congress president Rahul Gandhi (left) and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(File photos)
A combination photograph of Congress president Rahul Gandhi (left) and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.(File photos)

The view was endorsed by Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken, who claimed that the party “does not have confidence” in the AAP given that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal recently stated that he will support Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if the central government grants statehood to Delhi.

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The decision came in the wake of “feelers” from AAP, a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity. He claimed that at a recent chance meeting in Delhi, a senior AAP leader told a top Congress functionary that his party was staunchly anti-BJP.

The Congress functionary was also told that the AAP leadership has given clear directions to its three Rajya Sabha members to work in close coordination with the Congress and other opposition parties on issues of national importance.

HT has learnt that this meeting happened after the AAP’s protest at the Lieutenant Governor (LG)’s residence, during which there was widespread speculation that the Congress would support the party.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj blamed the Congress for “spreading the rumour” that his party was keen on an alliance. “But later they themselves denied it,” he said. “They have zero seats in the assembly. We wish them the same in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.”

The Congress is maintaining its distance from the AAP despite the overture as it considers Delhi an exception in the opposition’s plan to put up a united fight to oust the BJP in the 2019 general elections, Chacko said.

The Congress stayed away from the AAP sit-in at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence last month, based on feedback from both Delhi leaders and a survey of its workers, although other opposition leaders Mamata Banerjee, HD Kumaraswamy, Pinarayi Vijayan and N Chandrababu Naidu visited Kejriwal’s house in a show of support.

The Congress’ internal survey showed it winning 3-4 parliamentary constituencies out of the seven in Delhi.

“In 2019, it will be a fight between the Congress and the BJP in Delhi. Those constituents who had supported the AAP in the previous elections will come back to the Congress as minorities, Dalits and all other sections are disillusioned with both Kejriwal and the BJP,” Chacko said.

The party also held a series of internal consultations with senior leaders, including former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, Maken and former MPs.

“All of them were of the view that the Congress should fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Delhi on its own as there is a momentum building up across the country in favour of Rahul Gandhi,” Chacko said.

To buttress their point, Congress leaders also claimed that the AAP vote share had declined in recent elections in the national capital. “In comparison to the 2015 assembly polls, the AAP vote share decreased almost by half from 54.3% to 26.21% in the 2017 municipal polls,” said a Congress leader who asked not to be identified.

Maken alleged that the AAP was an “offshoot” of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the BJP.

“They (AAP) are the by-products of the RSS and the BJP. They are responsible for bringing down the Congress and making (Narendra) Modi the Prime Minister,” he said.

Sanjay Kumar, political analyst at Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), said: “In my opinion if they contest alone, Congress might not get a single seat in Delhi going by the current political situation. As far as the larger implication of the Congress move is concerned, it will have impact on alliances with opposition parties in other states. Such an approach by the Congress can be taken as their arrogance when it comes to having an alliance or political understanding with the opposition parties.”

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