- AAP said it would negotiate, with several seat-sharing formulas ready
- AAP offered 2 seats to Congress, said it was open to alliance in Punjab
- Congress move comes after nudge from senior opposition leaders
The united opposition's hopes of an alliance between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party were dashed today as Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit -- after a meeting with party chief Rahul Gandhi -- announced that there would be none. Furious, the AAP later declared that the Congress was committed to "helping the BJP".
Arvind Kejriwal's AAP had announced candidates for six of Delhi's seven Lok Sabha seats earlier this month, saying the Congress was not interested in an alliance. But the party was open to negotiations and had several seat sharing formulas ready, sources said. One of these involved two of Delhi's seven seats for the Congress, which was holding out for three seats. Mr Kejriwal's party was ready to offer more if they got seats in Haryana and Punjab.
But Ms Dikshit said the state Congress had "unanimously" turned down the idea of an alliance with Arvind Kejriwal's party. "It is final that there will be no alliance with AAP. Mr Gandhi has accepted the decision. The Congress will go it alone in all seven seats in Delhi and win," Ms Dikshit told NDTV.
A senior Congress leader told NDTV that Ms Dikshit, whose three-term government was swept out by AAP's march to power, had strongly opposed the alliance.
"She said in the last election in Delhi, both AAP and the Congress fared pretty much same and now Congress votebank is growing in Delhi while AAP is on a decline. At this rate, the Congress will grow bigger than AAP and can perform much better in the coming elections," he added.
AAP said for the Congress, the party is bigger than the nation. "As in Punjab, the BJP helped the Congress in defeating the AAP, the Congress is doing the same in Delhi," party leader Gopal Rai said at a press conference.
Mr Kejriwal tweeted:
At a time when the whole country wants to defeat Modi- Shah duo, Cong is helping BJP by splitting anti-BJP vote. Rumours r that Cong has some secret understanding wid BJP. Delhi is ready to fight against Cong-BJP alliance. People will defeat this unholy alliance. https://t.co/JUsYMjxCxy— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 5, 2019
Rahul Gandhi's meeting with the state leaders today came after a nudge from senior opposition leaders including Mamata Banerjee, who are trying to plug the holes in the united front against the BJP in the coming national elections.
The need for a rethink in overall opposition strategy was felt after the terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama and the subsequent air strikes at Pakistan's Balakot, which has led to a huge nationalistic fervour. The BJP is reworking its strategy too, building a fresh campaign around nationalism and national security.
Last month, at a mega meeting of the opposition, both AAP and the Congress were asked again to put behind their differences and stitch up an alliance in Delhi. But Rahul Gandhi had signalled reluctance, saying his party was willing to go it alone.
Days later, Mr Kejriwal said the Congress has "refused to go for an alliance" and he was "fed up" with repeatedly requesting a tie-up. Days later, on March 2, AAP announced its candidates for Delhi.
In the 2014 national elections, the BJP won all seven seats of Delhi. But in the subsequent assembly elections, AAP found tremendous support. In the 2015 assembly elections, AAP won 67 of Delhi's 70 seats, while the Congress, which had ruled Delhi for three terms, drew a blank.
The Congress-AAP dynamics had been skewed from the beginning, with Mr Kejriwal's party being an offshoot of the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare that had targeted the Congress government in Delhi led by Sheila Dikshit. Still, the two parties had entered a partnership in 2013, which ended with Mr Kejriwal's 49-day tenure as Chief Minister.
The parties, which have been at loggerheads since, had to re-calibrate their stance for the national stage after persuasion from opposition leaders.