New Delhi: Lack of trust in Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, and concerns about ceding ground to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) catalysed the Congress party’s decision to not ally with the national capital’s ruling party in the Lok Sabha elections, leaders present at a meeting with Rahul Gandhi have told ThePrint.
“The last time (in 2013) the Congress decided to support the AAP to help them form the government, they didn’t inform the Congress when they decided to contest elections again,” said a senior Congress leader, referring to the aftermath of the 2013 Delhi assembly election.
In the election, which marked the AAP’s political debut, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had emerged as the biggest player with 32 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats. The AAP won 28, and subsequently formed the government with the outside support of the Congress’ eight MLAs.
The Kejriwal government resigned 49 days later, after all the non-AAP MLAs, including a JD(U) legislator and an Independent, opposed his bid to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly.
A year later, the AAP was back in office with a stunning majority, winning 67 of Delhi’s 70 seats in 2015.
“They (AAP) are very unreliable and having such an ally is not a good decision politically,” the senior Congress leader said.
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“Delhi Pradesh (Congress) leaders were of the view that the AAP, especially Arvind Kejriwal, can’t be trusted. Imagine having an alliance with them and then Kejriwal bad-mouthing the Congress during political rallies in other states,” the leader added.
Ear to the ground
On Tuesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had called a meeting with senior leaders of the party in the national capital, including Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) president Sheila Dikshit, former Union minister Ajay Maken, and former Delhi ministers Arvinder Singh Lovely and Haroon Yusuf, former Delhi MP J.P. Aggarwal, and former Delhi assembly speaker and DPCC chief Subhash Chopra.
The meeting was also attended by AICC general secretay P.C. Chacko and AICC secretary Kuljit Singh Nagra.
“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,” Dikshit told reporters after the meeting.
According to a second senior Congress leader who spoke to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, though the brass, including Chacko and Maken, were in favour of some sort of an alliance with the AAP to defeat the BJP, the Delhi unit held its ground.
The meeting, which lasted over two hours, saw a debate about the pros and cons of a tie-up, and most leaders of the local unit argued that Delhi had mostly voted decisively for one player, be it AAP’s 2015 outing or the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when the BJP won all seven of the capital’s parliamentary seats.
“The local leaders want to work on the Delhi unit and strengthen it for the assembly elections,” said another Congress leader.
“They said the Congress would lose its credibility if they aligned with a party they have been criticising all this while,” the leader added.
Clash of the titans
According to a source, the discussion included a “minor argument” between Dikshit and Maken.
“Dikshit and Maken had a slight argument… As she was pitching for no alliance, he said [if you’re sure of a victory], do ensure Sandeep Dikshit (Dikshit’s son) fights the Lok Sabha elections,” the source added.
Sandeep, a two-term Lok Sabha member, was defeated by the BJP’s Maheish Girri in 2014.
Yet another senior Congress leader said Gandhi gave everyone a patient hearing and said he would not impose anything on the Delhi unit.
“Rahul Gandhi said that though senior leaders have been pitching for an alliance and arguing that it would help defeat the BJP, he didn’t want to go by their suggestion,” the leader added.
“Hence, he called Delhi leaders for the meeting. After all of them reasoned against it [an alliance], he also agreed to it,” the leader said.
“The assembly elections for Delhi will also be held next year and the state leadership wants to strengthen the party ahead of the polls,” a fifth party leader said. “All of them unanimously said they did not favour an alliance and the Congress president agreed to it.”
The work on selecting the Congress candidates for the Lok Sabha elections is already underway and a meeting of the party’s screening committee is scheduled this week.
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