New Delhi: The Congress declared on Tuesday (March 5) that it will not be allying with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The decision was announced by Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit, after a nearly two-hour-long meeting between party president Rahul Gandhi and some prominent leaders from the capital city.
With the Congress shutting down almost all prospects of an alliance, Delhi chief minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal hit back, accusing the grand old party of splitting the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party votes and thereby helping the saffron party.
Though both Congress and AAP have been speaking of contesting on their own and urging voters to not let the anti-BJP vote split, such appeals did not carry official weight till now. Behind the scenes, senior central party leaders of both parties were holding talks to stitch up an alliance.
Though local leaders of both parties were opposed to the idea, at one level there was unanimity that coming together would ensure an almost certain win on all the seven seats of Delhi. In the 2014 elections, BJP had bagged all these seats.
Kejriwal himself was one of the proponents of the idea. His calculation, which he often spoke about in his rallies and speeches, was that at the peak of the Modi wave in 2014, BJP got 46% votes – which was still two percentage points less than the combined 48% which Congress (15%) and AAP (33%) polled.
Kejriwal insisted that if there was an erosion in Modi’s or BJP’s popularity, the coming together of the two parties would ensure a definite win on all seven seats. Moreover, he had also suggested an alliance in Punjab and offered AAP’s support to Congress candidates in Goa and Gujarat.
Last Thursday, Gandhi asked the Delhi Congress to convene a meeting of its leaders and take a final call on the subject. A meeting was called the very next day, in which most Delhi leaders opposed the idea of an alliance. Thereafter, All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Delhi, P.C. Chacko, stated that the party would be contesting all seven seats on its own.
Dikshit had also declared that there was unanimity among the leaders that an alliance with AAP would damage the Congress in the long run, especially since the assembly elections in Delhi were due in 2020. She, however, noted that the final decision has been left to the Congress president.
Annoyed at Congress’s rejection, AAP had subsequently announced the names of candidates for six of the seven seats – indicating that it was prepared to fight alone.
On Tuesday, the final decision was taken by the Congress. Emerging from the meeting chaired by Rahul Gandhi, Sheila Dikshit said a unanimous decision has been taken to not ally with AAP.
Meanwhile, Kejriwal expressed his angst at the tie-up not fructifying and accused the the Congress of having a secret deal with the BJP.
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
While for all practical purposes the idea of an alliance now appears to be shut down, some party leaders on both sides remain hopeful that a last-minute understanding may emerge.