Should the Aam Aadmi Party, which came to power in Delhi by running an anti-Congress campaign, now tie-up with the party? Depends on who you ask. The Indian Express spoke to around 150 people across seven constituencies — from traders to government employees, property dealers to party workers — and discovered that while most believe an alliance is smart to compete with the BJP, it could dilute the AAP’s identity when it comes to Assembly polls next year.
AAP supporters in different pockets of the constituency, where AAP has fielded Atishi, believe an alliance will tip the scales in its favour. Most argued that without an alliance, all seven seats would undoubtedly be won by the BJP.
Those in favour of the alliance are willing to look past the differences between both parties. “The situation of politics in our country is such that it is all about ‘vote share’. All alliances and coalitions are for the seat of power, not ideology. The alliance has to happen so that people have a chance at voting out the current powers,” said A T Vashisht (83), a retired journalist from Mandawali.
However, some staunch AAP supporters, such as three housewives in their 30s from Trilokpuri, had their reservations. “AAP has done very good work for people but the alliance will be like deceiving them. It means they are willing to go to any extent for power. Five years later, will they go and support the BJP if it suits them? They have come to power completely on their own and they should continue to work like that,” said one.
“Many of our volunteers will stop working and a few might even quit (if there is an alliance). Even if Congress gets 1,000 votes, they will essentially be eating into our share and we might give them a fresh lease of life,” said Sahab Singh Yadav, an AAP office-bearer in Rithala. In this constituency, workers are overwhelmingly against the idea of a tie-up. In fact, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh met workers from the area Monday, and this was conveyed to him as well.
“Netas can justify anything. But how will party workers justify our move considering AAP is the product of an anti-Congress movement,” Kalicharan, an AAP volunteer in Rohini, asked.
Another volunteer said: “Had an alliance been on the cards, AAP’s campaign would have slowed down. It seems we are deliberately keeping the Congress confused so that by the time they start campaigning, there will not be much time left.”
Gugan Singh Ranga, AAP’s candidate from the constituency, conceded that the confusion had come as a setback for workers and volunteers: “There is a sense of disappointment among workers who want to work hard. They are not able to do so due to the uncertainty. It’s natural that people will be more willing to work for one’s own party rather than a rival… But if there is an alliance and my seat goes to the Congress, I will accept the high command’s decision.”
In the constituency which includes slum clusters of Sangam Vihar, Deoli and Ambedkar Nagar, AAP supporters are split down the middle. Many believe AAP should go it alone as the Congress no longer has a strong political presence in the capital.
Sukh Ram (65), a tailor in Ambedkar Nagar, always voted for the Congress until AAP entered the fray. “AAP has already declared its candidates and campaigning has begun. The alliance should have happened earlier. If it happens now, it will harm both AAP and the Congress because new candidates won’t get enough time,” he said.
Om Prakash (68), a silver shop owner in Ambedkar Nagar, said, “In our area, the contest will be between the Congress and AAP. If their votes get split, the BJP will win. If they come together, things could turn out differently.”
Comprising a strong middle-class population in Dwarka, and a vast trading community in Janakpuri, Tilak Nagar and Rajouri Garden, AAP supporters in this constituency were largely against the idea of a tie-up.
Several people said an alliance will send “mixed signals” to voters, given how vocal and bitter each party has been against the other. “CM Arvind Kejriwal has spent years criticising the Congress, if they tie up now his own seat his not secure,” said Raman Singh (37), manager of a fashion apparel store in Janakpuri.
Outside, a tailor, Amirul (50), disagreed: “AAP ke dono haath mein ladoo honge. If the Congress wins the Lok Sabha polls, AAP will be in the Centre, and they will win the Delhi elections anyway.”
Vijay, a jewellery store owner in Rajouri Garden, said since Kejriwal has “done some good work”, he shouldn’t “fear so much” but should rather “have some confidence and fight polls on his own”.
Harishchandra (66), who runs a pan kiosk in Tilak Nagar, said even if an alliance is formed, “it will break again in six months”.
While AAP workers here are suspicious of the idea of an alliance, most maintained that they will abide by the party’s decision.
Atul Tomar, an AAP worker in Babarpur, said, “We are with Kejriwal in any situation but it would be better if we do not give fresh life to Congress. They don’t have any seats in Delhi, and the fight this time is anyway between us and the BJP. We are not just any party, we project ourselves as morally superior, so entering into an alliance could raise eyebrows.”
AAP volunteer Raj Kumari said it would be easier for them to seek votes if they were fighting alone. Next to him, Vinod Saha, said, “When AAP formed government with Congress last time, it was still understandable because they needed to be part of a system they needed to clean. But things have changed in the last five years.”
Across Ballimaran and Matia Mahal markets, both Muslim-dominated areas, a majority hoped for an alliance so votes wouldn’t be split. “Secularism is under threat. If it takes this alliance to save that, so be it,” said Atiq-ur-Rehman (52), who runs a garment shop in Matia Mahal. Trader Haji Rashid (63) echoed the sentiment.
In Ballimaran, Asif Iqbal (48), an optician, said, “In an alliance, parties keep each other in check, and both the Congress and AAP need that so they don’t act like rajas.” Shoe trader Mohd Shami (55) said strong allies would mean “a policy like demonetisation would not be introduced again”.
Bangle shop owner Rinki Gupta (35), on the other hand, said an alliance would be fruitless since “they are not on the same page and will keep squabbling in the future”.
The constituency, home to several people from the business class and government employees, is on the fence about an alliance. “During the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, even I had given funds to AAP. But after winning the Assembly elections, they took help from the Congress and people felt cheated at the time,” said Rajendra Kumar Prajapati (56), who runs a welding shop in Baljit Nagar.
But Narayan Singh, a government employee who lives in Mandir Marg, said an alliance was needed to counter “a big leader like Modi”.
At Delhi’s tourism hub of Paharganj, support for an alliance is loud and clear, with several traders saying they are still reeling under the impact of demonetisation and GST. “I have seen this market crash in the last five years. Will you buy a jooti with 18% GST? An alliance is a good idea,” said shoe trader Gambhir Swatantra (68).
Pinky Sharma (43) and Rinku Mishra (40), who work at a mehendi shop in Paharganj, however said that AAP allying with Congress will be “nothing short of a betrayal”.