- We were ready to do an alliance in Delhi, says Rahul Gandhi
- He says Arvind Kejriwal suddenly brought Haryana and Punjab in the view
- It was strategically not okay, Rahul Gandhi adds
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, accused by many of failing to hold the opposition line together in Delhi and Bengal, today said Arvind Kejriwal was "shifting the goalposts". Seven seats are stake in Delhi and 42 in Bengal and numbers suggest that the opposition's best chance of beating the BJP lies in joining forces. But while there were no talks in the eastern state, the Congress's on-again, off-again negotiations with Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party -- prodded by key opposition leaders including Sharad Pawar, Chandrababu Naidu -- had occupied headlines for weeks.
In mid-April, the Congress abandoned the attempt and named its candidates for the Lok Sabha seats.
"I was in a second ready to do an alliance in Delhi. My party was against it, but I was like, listen guys, I am going to override you guys, I think these seven seats are important and I am ready to that... We were ready to do an alliance in Delhi but he suddenly brought Haryana and Punjab in the view. It was strategically not okay," Mr Gandhi told NDTV today in an exclusive interview, his first to a television channel in more than a year.
"The problem was Kejriwal was shifting the goalposts," he added.
Opposition from the Congress's state leaders in Delhi was only the first hurdle for an alliance with AAP. There were two more states in line - one of them Punjab, where AAP won four seats in the 2014 national election.
Out to expand its footprint in the states around Delhi, AAP aimed at the 10 Lok Sabha seats of Haryana and the 13 in Punjab, insisting that it could win all 7 seats in Delhi. The Congress, which wanted at least three seats in Delhi, was not ready to share in either state.
As the talks dragged on, the Congress faced allegations of inaction and more from the Aam aadmi Party. Mr Kejriwal and his leaders had gone on record accusing the Congress of not being interested in an alliance and of being in league with the BJP.
Mr Gandhi finally tweeted: "An alliance between the Congress and AAP in Delhi would mean the rout of the BJP. The Congress is willing to give up four Delhi seats to the AAP to ensure this. But, Mr Kejriwal has done yet another U-turn! Our doors are still open, but the clock is running out".
It drew a furious retort from Mr Kejriwal. "What U-turn? Your tweet shows your interest in alliance is just pretence," he tweeted, repeating the allegation that the Congress was helping Prime Minister Narendra Modi.