Hours after Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief Sheila Dikshit said they will not ally with the Aam Aadmi Party before the Lok Sabha polls, Gopal Rai, AAP’s Delhi unit head, said that while talks had broken down, doors were not yet shut on the possibility of a tie-up.
According to sources, behind the breakdown of talks, which has happened for the second time in a month, is a lack of trust and a disagreement on seat sharing.
While AAP leaders say Congress has been talking about the ‘3-3-1 formula’ — where three seats each go to Congress and AAP and one independent candidate is fielded — that conversation has not happened with them.
“We were willing to part with one, at most two seats. Giving three seats to a party that doesn’t have a single MLA in the city is not possible. We have been clear that we want to ally with Congress only because we don’t want BJP to come back to power,” said a senior AAP leader.
All seven Lok Sabha seats from Delhi went to the BJP in 2014, while AAP came in second in all.
Neither AAP nor Congress has managed to zero in on an ideal candidate from west Delhi, and those in favour of an alliance were willing the field an independent from the constituency, it is learnt. Rai Tuesday said the party will finalise a candidate for the seat in a few days.
According to party sources, while MLAs and ministers are not being considered, there is a possibility that someone “non-political as well as someone who is not in the party yet” could be fielded.
AAP had on Saturday announced candidates from six seats — but insiders from both parties maintained that was a “pressure tactic”. Congress is yet to declare the name of any candidate.
The two seats AAP was willing to part with the Congress were New Delhi and Chandni Chowk, sources said.
According to Congress sources, the party is keen on having former Delhi unit head Ajay Maken contest from New Delhi and senior leader Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk. Both have been elected to the Parliament from these constituencies before.
The South Delhi seat, a stronghold of former Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and his family, has also been a point of discussion between parties.
AAP insiders, however, said that the constituencies were not as much of a sticking point as the number of seats.
“Discussions around constituencies were cursory, at best. It is the number that is more important. On top of that, the Congress is wary of Arvind Kejriwal. He has made public statements against the Congress as well as for an alliance, so some leaders are in two minds about tying up with him,” a source said.
Congress’ reluctance to part with seats in Punjab also added to the rift. Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has said that the state unit does not want to ally with AAP.
Going by the results in 2014, if Congress and AAP maintain their vote shares, the alliance will win six out of seven seats. The only seat where BJP had an edge was West Delhi, where Pravesh Sahib Singh got 48% of the votes, while AAP and Congress combined got 42%.
While the Delhi Congress leadership has ruled out an alliance, the All India Congress Committee is yet to speak, giving the AAP leaders some hope.