Only a handful of leaders in the Congress feel that an alliance with the AAP would definitely pose a major challenge to the BJP.
New Delhi: The Congress has taken a final call of not forging any alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi for the coming Lok Sabha elections. Former chief minister and Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit said Tuesday that the party had taken a unanimous decision of not forging any alliance with the AAP for the Lok Sabha polls. The was announced by Ms Dikshit after a meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress move not to stitch together any alliance with the AAP is a major bolt to the newbie party that had promised to support it in Goa and Gujarat where Mr Kejriwal’s outfit had contested seriously in the last Assembly polls but failed to make much impact.
Hitting out at the Congress, Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal claimed there were rumours that the Congress has a “secret understanding” with the BJP and said his party was ready to fight the “unholy alliance”.
“At a time when the whole country wants to defeat the (Narendra) Modi-(Amit) Shah duo, the Congress is helping the BJP by splitting the anti-BJP vote. There are rumours Cong has some secret understanding with the BJP,” Mr Kejriwal tweeted. “Delhi is ready to fight against Cong-BJP alliance. People will defeat this unholy alliance,” he added.
The AAP president had earlier made it clear that if his party and the Congress did not join hands for the Lok Sabha polls, this would definitely split anti-BJP votes in the city. To mount pressure on the Congress to forge an alliance, the AAP had even declared the names of candidates for six Lok Sabha seats. Delhi has seven Lok Sabha constituencies.
After Ms Dikshit’s announcement, the AAP alleged that not just in Delhi, the Congress was helping the BJP in Uttar Pradesh against the SP-BSP alliance, and in West Bengal against Mamata Banerjee. Senior party leader Gopal Rai said the Congress was deliberately going against the mood of the nation. “Today every Indian wants to defeat the BJP, except the Congress,” he added.
After the state leadership met their party chief, Ms Dikshit announced that a unanimous decision had been taken that there would be no alliance in Delhi. Among those present at the meeting was Congress’ Delhi in-charge P.C. Chacko, former PCC chiefs Ajay Maken, Subhash Chopra, Arvinder Singh Lovely and J.P. Aggarwal and former ministers Yoganand Shastri and Haroon Yusuf. The former CM said her party was reading to contest all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi and the process of selecting candidates was on.
At the time of its formation, many felt the AAP posed the greatest threat to the Congress, which was proved right when it ousted the Congress from power in 2013, and followed up with a complete wipeout in the 2015 polls. That year AAP won 67 of 70 Assembly seats, but the Congress failed to win even one.
Ever since, the AAP has faced a decline in popularity and fortune. It lost to the Congress in the Punjab elections of March 2017, and a month later to the BJP in the Delhi municipal elections. Recently, the Congress was able to form governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Within the party, the confidence has grown that dalit and Muslim votes which had drifted away from the party were returning to its fold. Political experts say it is for this reason the state leadership doesn’t want an alliance with the AAP. They believe giving it a lifeline at this time could be suicidal for the Congress and as in UP — where it finds it tough to dislodge the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party now — in Delhi too it may never return.
Only a handful of leaders in the Congress feel that an alliance with the AAP would definitely pose a major challenge to the BJP. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity was at its peak, the BJP got 46 per cent votes, the AAP 33 per cent and the Congress 15 per cent. If the BJP retains its 2014 voteshare, the two parties will prove to be formidable if they come together, they believe.