With most top Delhi Congress leaders, barring former state chief Ajay Maken, opposing a seat-sharing pact with the Aam Aadmi Party, the party Tuesday decided against an alliance with the Arvind Kejriwal-led party in New Delhi.
The Congress high command has been under pressure from other Opposition parties to put up a united front against the BJP in Delhi but following a meeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi had with top Congress leaders from Delhi, the party decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections alone.
Sources said Maken, who was among the most vocal critics of the AAP, was one of the few favouring an alliance. His stand assumes significance since his resignation as the Delhi Congress president a few months ago was linked to attempts by some leaders to seal an alliance with the AAP. At the time, he was uncomfortable with the idea, said sources. Incidentally, a section of the Congress leadership continues to believe in the possibility of a Congress-AAP tie-up. Many central leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and A K Antony, are said to favour an alliance with the AAP.
After the Congress’s announcement, Kejriwal took to Twitter to lash out, claiming that the Congress and the BJP have entered an “unholy alliance”. “At a time when the whole country wants to defeat Modi-Shah duo, Congress is helping BJP by splitting the anti-BJP vote. Rumours are that Congress has some secret understanding with BJP. Delhi is ready to fight against Cong-BJP alliance. People will defeat this unholy alliance,” Kejriwal tweeted.
AAP Delhi convenor Gopal Rai said the Congress’s decision shows that for it, the “party comes before the nation”. Announcing the decision, former Delhi Chief Minister and state party chief Sheila Dikshit said: “We have unanimously decided that we will not have an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party and we will contest alone and will emerge stronger.”
At the Congress meet, Maken and AICC in-charge of Delhi P C Chacko spoke in favour of an alliance, while all others, including former DPCC presidents Arvinder Singh Lovely, J P Aggarwal, Subhash Chopra, former Speaker Yoganand Shastry, Delhi unit working presidents Haroon Yusuf and Rajesh Lilothia, opposed the idea. Sources said the overwhelming majority of Congress leaders argued that the party would find it difficult to fight against the AAP in the Assembly elections, expected around six to eight months after the Lok Sabha polls, if it joins hands with the AAP now. They argued an alliance with the AAP for temporary gains was not in the long-term interest of the party and said Kejriwal was an “unreliable ally” and “a bigger enemy” of the party.
At the meeting, Rahul is learnt to have told leaders that the AAP has, through some opposition leaders, conveyed to him that it was willing to offer three seats to the Congress in Delhi. He mentioned the 3-3-1 formula, where both the AAP and the Congress would contest three seats each and the remaining would be contested by a joint independent candidate. Dikshit, sources said, told the meeting that the Congress’s position has improved in New Delhi.
Maken is learnt to have told the meeting that as the Delhi Congress chief, he had waged the most number of agitations against the AAP government in the last four years. In fact, he is learnt to have said that nobody sitting in the room had led as many as agitations as he had. But the hard and harsh ground reality today, he is learnt to have said, is that the BJP will win all seven seats if Congress and AAP do not come together.
Sources said his argument was that the BJP’s situation in Delhi, a predominantly urban centre, has improved following the airstrikes conducted by India inside Pakistan. Maken also countered Dikshit when she said the Congress’s position has improved, asking whether her son and Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit would contest from East Delhi. Dikshit was said to be non-committal on Sandeep contesting, sources said. Maken then asked how she can force others to contest without an alliance when it was not clear whether Sandeep will contest.