"Thank You, Mann Sahab": Punjab Congress Leader To NDTV On AAP's Solo Plan

AAP MP Sandeep Pathak has said a final decision on an alliance with Congress in Punjab is yet to be taken

Partap Singh Bajwa is Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly

New Delhi:

A day after Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann revealed Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) plans to go solo in Punjab in the Lok Sabha polls, one of the state's top Congress leaders has 'thanked' the Chief Minister and said this is "exactly what we wanted".

"This is what the Congress cadre in Punjab wanted from the beginning. There is a difference between Punjab and other states. Here, they (AAP) are in the government and we are the principal opposition. How can both of us get together," Partap Singh Bajwa, Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly, told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

"If we get together, the anti-incumbency vote is going to shift, either to the BJP or to the Akali Dal. How can we relinquish our position? Congress is on the comeback train. This way, we will finish our existence. We have to preserve our vote bank, and build on it. This is much better for both (Congress and AAP)," he said.

Mr Bajwa said that the seats the AAP and Congress win will remain with the anti-BJP Opposition bloc anyway. "We are fighting (AAP) in the Vidhan Sabha and outside it. Every day, the main opposition is coming from the Congress. We are on the streets of Punjab against them. How do you think we can sit on the same stage with them," he said.

The Congress leader said this is not his stand alone. "Every single Congress worker (feels the same). Our general secretary has been holding meetings with Congress workers, block president, district president, MLAs and former MLAs, MPs and former MPs, state party presidents. 99.9 per cent of people with folded hands have suggested that we would have nothing to do with AAP. "I would like to thank Mr Mann, he has made our job a little easier. This is exactly what we wanted," he said.

He denied that such statements were part of bargaining tactics. "If our votes shift to another party, they won't come back during the 2027 Assembly polls. We have already seen such experiments in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. In Delhi, we helped these AAP guys to form their government in 2014. Since then, we are nowhere to be seen. We don't want a similar situation in Punjab," he said.

Mr Mann yesterday sparked a buzz by announcing that AAP is working on finalising candidates for all 13 Punjab seats. Soon after, MP and Punjab co-incharge Sandeep Pathak played down the remarks and said the final decision was yet to be taken. "This is not new. Punjab unit had been saying from the beginning that they are capable of contesting alone. If you look at the local unit of Congress, they too say that they don't want to forge an alliance. So, local units have their own aspirations. The final decision will be taken by the coordination committee, seat-sharing committee and the High Command. Let's wait for it. The sooner it is done, the better," he said.

Mr Mann's remarks had come shortly after the INDIA bloc suffered another setback in Bengal, with Trinamool Congress supremo ruling out any alliance with the Congress in the state. In Bengal, too, state Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has been opposed to an alliance with the ruling Trinamool in Bengal. The Congress leadership, however, has said it cannot imagine INDIA bloc without Ms Banerjee.