Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has so far been silent on the combative words from Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party. But today his party colleague Sharmistha Mukherjee picked up cudgels on his behalf and took on AAP, saying its "boycott" of the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman elections has only helped the BJP. Mr Kejriwal has been at loggerheads with the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his party swept to power in 2015. But the abstention of his three lawmakers from Thursday's voting not only pulled down the opposition score but helped the government by lowering the majority mark.
"AAP says 'politics does not run on ego'. Indeed! That's why @ArvindKejriwal is sulking & decided to abstain from voting in RS, helping BJP," tweeted Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of former president Pranab Mukherjee.
AAP had made its support to opposition candidate BK Hariprasad conditional - they wanted Mr Gandhi to dial Mr Kejriwal and seek his help. When that call did not come, the deeply upset party declared that it will stay out of the election. Accusing the Congress of discourtesy, party leader Sanjay Singh said, "If Rahul Gandhi can hug Narendra Modi, why cannot he ask Arvind Kejriwal for support to his party's candidate".
Congress sources said three senior leaders -- Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Ahmed Patel -- had called AAP, but Mr Kejriwal wanted a call from Rahul Gandhi, which was not made. Mr Gandhi was in Chennai yesterday, attending the funeral of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi.
Today, Ms Mukherjee, a spokesperson of the party's Delhi unit, tweeted:
Why should @RahulGandhi seek support from a person who openly pledged to support & campaign for Modi in 2019 provided a demand of his is met. Politics is a battle of ideologies, not a playground for opportunists indulging in quid pro quo https://t.co/n1qagYfH9b- Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) August 9, 2018
The reference was to the Mr Kejriwal's unthinkable declaration in Delhi assembly in June that he was ready to campaign for the BJP in 2019 if Delhi was given full statehood.
The strained relation between the Congress and AAP has its roots in the 2011 anti-corruption movement, when AAP was not formed and Mr Kejriwal and his close colleagues were aides of Anna Hazare, who led the movement. It was one of the factors that had hugely discredited the UPA government and helped the BJP win in 2014 general elections.
In 2013, AAP formed the government in Delhi with Congress support, but after 49 days, Mr Kejriwal stepped down, accusing the Congress of allying with the BJP and blocking the Jan Lokpal bill.
During Mr Kejriwal's face off with Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, he received messages of support and encouragement from most opposition parties. But there was none from the Congress. Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken dismissed Mr Kejriwal's sit-in protest at the LG's house as "drama".