In an admission that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) favours a pre-election alliance with the Congress for the seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday said that his party was “eager” for a tie-up out of “concern” for the country’s future, but the Congress has “more or less” ruled out the possibility of any understanding.
Asked why AAP appears eager to seal an alliance with the Congress, Kejriwal said: “We are very concerned about the country. We can see how brotherhood has been destroyed over the last five years, how demonetisation left lakhs of people unemployed, how mob lynchings are taking place, how institutions and universities are being subverted. We are very concerned over these issues — that is why we are eager (to ensure BJP’s defeat).”
Probed further on the Congress’s current stand, Kejriwal said, “Unhone lagbhag mana kar diya hai (they have more or less said no).”
Maintaining that BJP stands to gain in the event of more than one Opposition candidate challenging the ruling party on any seat, Kejriwal said, “It is essential that one candidate is fielded against the BJP everywhere so that anti-BJP votes do not split. Each party will have to understand that. If two candidates are fielded against the BJP (candidate) in Delhi, it will help BJP. If any candidate other than that of the SP-BSP is fielded against the BJP in UP, then it benefits the BJP,” he said.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee also maintained that each opposition party should contest in the state or region it is strong in, and indicated that other parties should help it win those seats.
In a brief interaction with the media at the Press Club of India here, Banerjee said, “All states are different. Wherever somebody is strong, they will fight. The Congress is strong in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, (so) we are not fielding candidates there. But we are strong in Bengal. (AAP leader) Arvind Kejriwal is strong in Delhi, but he wants an alliance with the Congress – that’s the conversation I had with him yesterday. It is the Congress’s decision whether to do it or not (agree to a pre-election tie-up)…”
The Congress leadership in both Delhi and Punjab, two states where AAP nurses ambition, is learnt to be against any tie-up with the Kejriwal-led party.
Banerjee said, “There can be compulsions in a state, but we can have a pre-poll alliance at the national level to stake claim (after results)”.
On BJP’s taunt that the Opposition alliance will be in tatters over the choice of a Prime Minister candidate, Banerjee said there is no dearth of leaders in the Opposition camp because the “role of a leader is to unite the country, not divide it”. She said, “There are many people – there is Arvind (Kejriwal), Chandrababu Naidu, Rahul (Gandhi)…”
While the TMC chief said opposition parties will meet again in Delhi on February 26 or 27, sources indicated that a draft common minimum programme is likely to be ready by then for the parties to discuss it.
Banerjee met President Ramnath Kovind in the afternoon in a “courtesy call”.