Sheila Dikshit had warned Rahul Gandhi that alliance with AAP would hurt Congress in the long run. (File)
New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi, speaking for the first time on the hard-nosed negotiations with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on an alliance in Delhi for the national election, tweeted today that the party was ready to give up its claim on four of seven seats but Arvind Kejriwal had done a U-turn. "Our doors are still open, but the clock is running out," the Congress president posted. "What U-turn? Your tweet shows your interest in alliance is just pretence," Arvind Kejriwal retorted, accusing Rahul Gandhi, once again, of helping Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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"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," Rahul Gandhi tweeted, with the hashtag #AbAAPkiBaari.
Arvind Kejriwal's retort was swift. "Which U-turn? Talks are still on but your tweet shows you didn't really want an alliance, it was all pretense," he tweeted, accusing Rahul Gandhi of helping PM Modi by dividing the anti-Modi votes in "UP and other states".
The Congress president has spoken on the alliance talks for the first time, though AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly needled him and accused him of blocking any seat sharing deal.
At first glance, the tweets indicated a softening from both parties after weeks of back-and-forth that seemed to go nowhere. Like Rahul Gandhi today, Arvind Kejriwal had indicated yesterday that he was willing to try "till the end".
"The country is in danger. To save the country from (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi Ji and Amit Shah Ji's 'jodi', we are ready to do whatever is needed. Our efforts will continue till the end," the AAP chief had tweeted on Sunday. Soon after Rahul Gandhi's tweet today, Arvind Kejriwal's tone changed.
Though Rahul Gandhi made the four-seat "offer" official for the first time, the talks were reportedly stuck over AAP's insistence that a seat sharing pact be extended to Haryana and Punjab. The Congress claims the talks crashed over AAP insisting that the two states be thrown in as part of the alliance deal. Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, said he would not need Congress's help to win the seven seats in Delhi but a tie-up would help limit the BJP in Haryana and in Punjab.
"In Punjab AAP has four MPs and 20 legislators but Congress (which rules the state) does not want to part with even one seat. In Haryana, Congress has a single MP but does not want to give any seats. In Delhi, Congress has zero MLAs or MPs (legislators or parliamentarians), they want three seats from us. Is this compromise? Why don't you want to stop the BJP in other states too," tweeted Sanjay Singh today.
The Congress said it is not practical or feasible as the situation differs from state to state. Especially in Congress-ruled Punjab, it will be a tough sell.
Attempts to bring the AAP and the Congress together started more than a month ago with a meeting at Maharashtra politician Sharad Pawar's home, where Mamata Banerjee also urged Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi to discuss a tie-up in Delhi. In the weeks following that meeting, there was much resistance from Congress leaders in Delhi, especially its chief Sheila Dikshit, whose 15-year dream run in the capital as chief minister ended because of AAP.
Delhi votes for its seven Lok Sabha seats on May 12. The results will be declared with the rest of the country on May 23.