Congress chief Rahul Gandhi met leaders of the party's Delhi unit today to discuss the possibilities of an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party for the upcoming national elections. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party had declared candidates for six of Delhi's seven Lok Sabha seats earlier this month, accusing the Congress of refusing an alliance. But sources said AAP has now offered two seats to the Congress in Delhi and is open for an alliance in Punjab as well.
The Congress, however, is holding out for three seats, sources said. AAP has suggested that if Congress wants more seats in Delhi, it would retain all four seats in Punjab that it won in 2014. For now, the party has put on hold its campaign song.
In the 2014 national elections, the BJP won all seven seats of Delhi, but AAP has found tremendous support in Delhi. In the 2015 assembly elections, AAP won 67 of Delhi's 70 seats, the Congress drew a blank.
The fractured relations between the Congress and AAP had not mended despite the efforts of opposition leaders like Ms Banerjee, her Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu, DMK's MK Stalin and CPM's Sitaram Yechury. While Arvind Kejriwal has joined the opposition fold and shown readiness to collaborate with the Congress on the national level, the hostility between the two parties at the state level has persisted.
Last month, at a mega meeting of the opposition, the two parties were again urged to put behind their differences and stitch up an alliance in Delhi. But Rahul Gandhi had signaled reluctance, saying his party was willing to go it alone.
Days later, Mr Kejriwal said the Congress has "refused to go for an alliance" in Delhi and that he was "fed up" with repeatedly asking for a tie-up. The comment did not go down well with the Congress and its Delhi chief Sheila Dikshit, who denied that any talks on the subject took place.
On March 2, AAP announced its candidates for Delhi.
The Pulwama attack and the subsequent IAF response, however, have triggered a rethink in the opposition camp.
The need of the hour, key leaders feel, is to put up a well-knit front instead of a piecemeal approach, where parties that are allies at the national level, would be pitted against each other in the states in the national election.
Apart from Uttar Pradesh, where Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav appear determined to leave the Congress out of the alliance, two big gaps in the opposition bulwark would be Bengal and Delhi. In both places, the Congress would be contesting against AAP and Trinamool candidates.
Sources told NDTV yesterday that Chandrababu Naidu and Nationalist Congress chief Sharad Pawar have both asked Rahul Gandhi to revisit the possibilities of alliance with Mr Kejriwal and Ms Banerjee.
Sources said Ms Banerjee has been put in charge of building consensus and ensuring that in all three states, candidates of opposition parties do not contest against each other. Ms Banerjee has approached Akhilesh Yadav on this.
Now, there is a possibility that the Congress and Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress may explore an understanding in some of Bengal's 42 parliamentary seats.