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Explained: Reading the Cong-AAP shadow-boxing in Delhi

Amid the shadow-boxing, the AAP's announcement of candidates in six seats -- barring West Delhi -- is not viewed with much seriousness by the senior Congress leadership. "All this will happen during election time. Let's see how things progress," a senior Congress leader said.

, Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 2, 2019 7:06:46 pm
How Delhi voted in 2014. How Delhi voted in 2014.

As the Delhi unit of the Congress continues to resist suggestions to enter into a seat-sharing pact with the Aam Aadmi Party for the Lok Sabha elections, the AAP on Saturday went ahead and announced its candidates for six seats.

The move is seen as an attempt by the AAP to mount pressure on the Congress central leadership, which is already facing a lot of pressure from other parties in the Opposition to put up a united front against the BJP in the national capital.

A top Congress leader said the high command is open to a respectable alliance with the AAP and indicated there is still a possibility of arriving at a seat-sharing pact. The Congress high command’s constant refrain that the Delhi unit is not relenting is also seen as a pressure tactic to secure a respectable deal.

Amid the shadow-boxing, the AAP’s announcement of candidates in six seats — barring West Delhi — is not viewed with much seriousness by the senior Congress leadership. “All this will happen during election time. Let’s see how things progress,” a senior Congress leader said.

The Congress and the AAP have done business in the past. The Congress had extended support to the first Arvind Kejriwal government in 2013, only to withdraw it months later. The Delhi Congress feels that the AAP is on a weak wicket in the national capital, and the party should not lift its stature by joining hands with it.

How Delhi voted in 2014. How Delhi voted in 2014.

The AAP’s demand for seats in Punjab is also complicating matters. The Punjab Congress under Capt. Amarinder Singh is strongly opposed to any pact with the AAP, which it believeS is disintegrating fast in Punjab, and which need not be resurrected by an alliance.

The AAP on Saturday declared that its hand in declaring candidates for six of the seven seats had been forced by the Congress’s repeated assertion that its Delhi unit was against a tie-up. AAP Delhi convenor Gopal Rai said Congress president Rahul Gandhi had conveyed to Kejriwal that the coalition couldn’t take shape due to the reluctance of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee leaders. “He (Rahul) said so in front of all the Opposition leaders at Sharad Pawar’s residence,” Rai said.

He also said that DPCC chief Sheila Dikshit had said on Friday that she was not in favour of any alliance. “Time was running out and we had to announce names,” Rai said.

Congress sources said senior leaders were still trying to speak to DPCC members to see if an understanding could be reached. Senior AAP leaders said that the Congress had suggested a 3-3-1 ticket distribution formula, where both parties get three tickets each, and one goes to an Independent candidate, but the AAP was totally opposed to the idea.

“Congress is a party that doesn’t have a single MLA in Delhi. We also got twice as many votes as them in Lok Sabha elections on 2014. It is impossible for us to give them 3 candidates. The most that the party leadership is willing to go with is 2. There has been no discussion on the constituencies that could be divided,” said a senior AAP leader.

AAP has clearly stated several times that it is in favour of an alliance and Kejriwal has said previously that the Congress is the one blocking it.

The developments over the past two days could read as each party trying to pressure the other into reaching an understanding based on their preferred formula.

“Things can still change but declaring candidates on 6 out of 7 seats was a clear indication that AAP is not willing to bend too much. The seventh candidate has still not been declared as we have still not been able to get a suitable candidate from the area, not because that’s the seat we want to give to the Congress. Discussions haven’t reached that stage yet,” said an AAP leader.

The Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee on Friday held a meeting where leaders said a decision was reached to not go in for an alliance dictated by the AAP.

Don’t miss in Explained: Why Arvind Kejriwal wants an alliance with Congress in Delhi

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