An Eventful Week for AAP-Congress Alliance Talks

After initial reluctance, the Congress may agree to a pact in Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh.

New Delhi: With the nomination process for the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi having started, the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party are gradually inching towards an alliance. After the Congress denied the possibility of a tie-up anywhere outside Delhi, the two parties are discussing allying in Haryana and Chandigarh. Both Delhi and Haryana will vote in the sixth phase on May 12, while Chandigarh will go to polls in the last phase, on May 19.

The recent turn of events appears to have been made possible by the intervention of the central leaderships of both the parties. Though earlier this week, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal exchanged words over Twitter accusing each other of derailing the talks, there has been a spurt in negotiations.

Also Read: After Rahul Says AAP Has Taken ‘U-Turn’, Kejriwal Accuses Congress of Helping BJP

On April 15, Rahul Gandhi accused Kejriwal of doing “yet another U-turn” saying he was not firming up the alliance despite Congress’s readiness “to give up 4 Delhi seats”.

Kejriwal accused the Congress of indulging in rhetoric. He added that the Congress was helping the BJP by ensuring a split in the anti-Modi vote in Uttar Pradesh and other states.

Subsequently, Gandhi instructed Delhi general secretary in-charge P.C. Chacko to hold talks with the AAP leadership. Though initially Chacko complained that there was no response, he was later able to hold talks with AAP’s national spokesperson Sanjay Singh, who has been designated to remain in touch with all alliance partners.

Following several rounds of discussions and several occasions when it appeared that the talks may fall through, both the Congress and the AAP managed to keep the dialogue going. There is also a sense of urgency now, as the last date for filing nominations in Delhi is April 23.

The Congress initially ruled out alliances in Haryana, Punjab or any other state as state units were opposed to the idea. The AAP has insisted that these states be included.

Party leader Gopal Rai tweeted this view and Kejriwal endorsed it by retweeting it.

On April 17, the Congress insisted that in Haryana, it would contest at least seven of the ten seats in the state if an alliance was to be stitched with the AAP and the Jannayak Janata Party (breakaway faction of erstwhile Indian National Lok Dal).

A key role now is expected to be played by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also the party in-charge for Haryana. Azad was in favour of an alliance with the AAP to keep the BJP away from power all along. He seems to have convinced party cadres to adopt a similar attitude.

Rahul Gandhi is also learnt to have conveyed to both the Delhi and Haryana state leaderships of the necessity of an alliance. The state units were opposed to the idea because Haryana will elect its state assembly in the last quarter of this year and Delhi will be go to polls in the first quarter of 2020.

From the discussions, it appears that if the alliance materialises, the AAP will contest North East Delhi (for which it has announced Dilip Pandey), East Delhi (Atishi), South Delhi (Raghav Chadha) and West Delhi (Balbir Singh Jakhar). Incidentally, Jakhar and Pandey filed their nominations on Thursday.

The Congress is likely to field former union minister Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk and Ajay Maken from New Delhi. For the North West Delhi, reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates, former Delhi minister Raj Kumar Chauhan appears to be the front-runner.

In Haryana, a seat-sharing formula hasn’t been finalised yet. But in the event of an agreement, the AAP may contest Karnal and the JJP may field its candidates from Sonepat and Hisar. The Congress will contest the remaining seats.

As for Chandigarh, the AAP is likely to support the Congress candidate there against sitting MP Kirron Kher of the BJP.