Cong choice: better central rule than Delhi polls

The Congress in fact appeared relieved that the AAP experiment has ended.

New Delhi | Published: February 17, 2014 12:47:36 am

NAJEEBJUNGMWith Delhi’s lieutenant governor recommending President’s rule, the UPA wasted no time Saturday endorsing it. The Congress may gain nothing from allowing the assembly to stay alive, but the other option would have meant facing assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls and running the risk of being knocked out of the contest.

The Congress in fact appeared relieved that the AAP experiment has ended although its gamble of letting the government expose itself proved only a partial success. Many Congress leaders had questioned the decision to prop up the minority government led by Arvind Kejriwal, but the party’s strategists felt the new government, in its overenthusiasm to perform before the general elections but lacking in administrative experience, would run into trouble and would implode.

The AAP government was showing signs of pressing the self-destruct button. With every provocation — Kejriwal’s dharna, his government’s decision to file cases against Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily and his predecessor Murli Deora, frequent abuses at the Congress leadership — the Congress found him daring it to withdraw support. Though the party knew he would eventually resign, the timing of the decision did come as a surprise to it.

The party, sources said, had been expecting Kejriwal to resign closer to the Lok Sabha elections since the party has national ambitions. “We knew it would over an issue of his choice, and an emotive one. But we thought he would do it towards the end of March or the beginning of April,” a senior leader said. Congress leaders said the imposition of President’s rule was not a calculated risk taken by its leadership; rather, the party had no option.

Senior leaders said dissolution of the assembly would have meant simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The AAP would have played the victim card and retained some of its popular appeal while the BJP would have ridden the popularity of Narendra Modi. “We are in bad shape in Delhi. Our first priority should be to come back into the contest. Elections in two months could have been disastrous for us,” a senior leader said.

Party leaders agree, however, that the assembly being under suspended animation, too, presents a political risk — the BJP might try to form the government in Delhi after the Lok Sabha elections. Congress strategists feel the AAP would lose the momentum after the Lok Sabha elections and foresee a rebellion in the fledgling party after the general elections and a subsequent split in its ranks. “Let the BJP form the government after the Lok Sabha polls with the support of breakaway AAP MLAs. That is a possibility.

If the AAP disintegrates, it will only suit our political priorities. Our aim is to bring back a two-way contest. We stand a chance against the BJP,” a senior Delhi Congress leader said.

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