Despite Shazia Ilmi’s resignation from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) over “lack of inner-party democracy”, AAP leaders not only still hope that she will return, but also expect to continue to be BJP’s main challenger in the capital.
However, the apparent weakening of the AAP after their weak performance in the Lok Sabha polls and the resignation of a prominent leader has fuelled Congress hopes of being able to wrest their traditional strongholds from the AAP and recover from the two humbling defeats in Delhi.
A day after Ilmi walked out of the AAP, protesting the “lack of inner-party democracy and perpetuation of sensationalism”, AAP leaders believe that she will return to the party after chief Arvind Kejriwal is released from jail. Even as party spokespersons denied having approached Ilmi on Sunday, a senior AAP leader said, “I believe that Shazia will return to the party very soon. We are waiting for Arvind to return from jail. She had grievances against some steps that the party has taken and we are looking at those concerns.”
In the wake of Ilmi’s resignation and Kejriwal’s arrest being seen as a move to grab headlines, the Congress believes that the support for the AAP chief in the capital is fading fast.
Chief spokesperson of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) Mukesh Sharma said, “Resignations of Shazia Ilmi and Gopinath has proved there was no internal democracy in the AAP. The party is being run by Kejriwal and his coterie due to which senior leaders are deserting him.”
The AAP, however, feels encouraged by their increased vote share in the Lok Sabha elections in the capital. “The vote share of the AAP has increased in the Lok Sabha elections despite aggressive campaigning by the BJP for Narendra Modi. Our fight against corruption continues and people have supported us because of this struggle,” AAP leader Manish Sisodia said.
Moreover, the party believes that the political battle in Delhi will be a two-way contest — between the BJP and the AAP. “We are preparing for a direct contest with the BJP. The last two elections have shown that it is going to be a direct contest between the BJP and the AAP. Many Congress leaders lost their deposit in the elections. The Congress needs to re-assess its position,” AAP spokesperson Nagendra Sharma said.
Meanwhile, seven of the eight Congress MLAs, led by the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president Arvinder Singh Lovely, met AICC general secretary and Delhi-in charge Shakeel Ahmed, on Friday, to take stock of the situation in the national capital ahead of the Assembly polls.
Senior Congress leaders said Kejriwal’s decision to go to jail in order to gain public sympathy was something that would no longer work with Delhi voters. “Such theatrics and such drama won’t work repeatedly with the people of Delhi. Those who had voted for the AAP during the Lok Sabha polls instead of the Congress are already regretting it. They won’t do it again,” Lovely said.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders admitted that their best chance was to become the prime opposition in Delhi — something that would hinge on their ability to regain key seats from the AAP.
“There is no question of aligning with the AAP. We’ve made it very clear that we’ll oppose them. Their vote share might have increased, but we believe a large number of those who voted for the AAP will return to the Congress,” a leader said. The Congress is looking to target constituencies that were traditional bastions until AAP came into the picture. “In these areas, we’ll have to spend maximum energy. The party cadre will be there ensuring that the issues of the marginalised are addressed,” a leader said.