From Chennai, Arvind Kejriwal's Fresh Message To Congress On Delhi Bill

"The Congress should support this. Nitty gritty of a joint united opposition for 2024 polls can be worked out in the meeting scheduled," said Arvind Kejriwal

AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal will meet the Congress's Jharkhand ally Hemant Soren on Friday.

New Delhi:

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sent a third message to Congress on Thursday, seeking support against the Centre's proposed law to restore Lieutenant Governor's control over transfer and postings of bureaucrats in the national capital. The Congress has so far been on the fence of the Centre's executive order last month which nullified a Supreme Court order that upheld the elected government's control over bureaucrats.  

Mr Kejriwal, who plans to challenge the Centre's move in court, is also assembling political back-up.

He has already met several key opposition leaders including the Congress's Maharashtra allies Uddhav Thackeray and veteran leader Sharad Pawar. On Thursday, he met the Congress ally in the south -- DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.

At the press briefing later, Mr Kejriwal made his message clear. "The Congress should support this. Nitty gritty of a joint united opposition for 2024 polls can be worked out in the meeting scheduled," he said.  

Mr Kejriwal has already sought a meeting with Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, but is yet to receive a response.  

Meanwhile, he has the support of Congress allies Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray faction and Sharad Pawar. On Thursday, Mr Stalin joined their ranks, promising support to block the Centre's bill in Rajya Sabha. The AAP chief will meet the Congress's Jharkhand ally Hemant Soren next, on Friday.  

Besides, Mr Kejrwal has also has the backing of Bihar Chief Minister and opposition interlocutor Nitish Kumar, his deputy and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Tejashwi Yadav, and the Left.  

The growing band of leaders siding with Mr Kejriwal is piling pressure onto the Congress, which has been caught between ideological issues and electoral compulsions.  

The Congress's antipathy to AAP leaders, including Mr Kejriwal, dates back to Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign, which later helped AAP sweep out the Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi.  

In the years since, AAP has been occupying the political space of the Congress in states like Gujarat, Punjab and Goa.

Congress's Delhi leaders have repeatedly called Mr Kejriwal's party the "B-Team of the BJP" and have been set against any show of support to AAP.

But there has been pressure from the other side too.

"My thinking is that Arvind should get support by talking to non-BJP parties -- be it the Congress or BJD… This is not the time for arguments. Democracy has to be saved," Sharad Pawar had said after his meeting with Mr Kejriwal.

A stronger message had come from the CPM, through its mouthpiece "People's Democracy".

"At the political level, the entire opposition should unitedly oppose the ordinance when it is sought to be legislated through in parliament. The Congress party should stop dithering about its stand. The animosity towards Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP cannot determine its position. This is not about any individual leader or a single party – this is a basic attack on democracy and federalism," read an editorial in the paper.  

"How unitedly the opposition parties move to oppose the ordinance will have a bearing on the unity to be forged for the bigger battle against the BJP looming ahead," it added.  

Bringing the Congress on board is essential if AAP has to have any hope of battling the government in Rajya Sabha. The Congress has 31 MPs in the upper house -- the largest among opposition parties.  

The BJP will need three-fourths majority – 186-plus MPs -- to pass the constitutional amendment bill.  

The NDA currently has 110 seats in the 248-member house. The opposition has 110, meaning if all the parties come on board from both sides, the role of non-aligned parties like Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal and Andhra Pradesh's ruling YSR Congress will become crucial.

The BJD and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSR Congress have nine members each in Rajya Sabha. If they choose to extend support to the government, they can push up its strength to 218.

There is also the possibility of abstentions and walk-outs, which will bring down the majority mark.