The Aam Aadmi Party has ended all speculation regarding an electoral understanding with the Congress in the national capital by finalising six out of seven names for the Lok Sabha elections. The formal announcement regarding the nominees will be made once Arvind Kejriwal gives his approval to the list. The move is being viewed as a rebuff to the Congress, which at one stage was exploring the possibility of a tie-up with the party, which has virtually replaced it in its one-time stronghold of Delhi.
Informed sources said that Raghav Chadha will be the AAP nominee from South Delhi, while Atishi Marlena will contest from East Delhi. Other candidates who have been finalised are Brajesh Goel from New Delhi, Pankaj Gupta from Chandni Chowk, Guggan Singh Ranga from North West Delhi and Dalip Pandey from North East Delhi. The AAP is considering a number of names for the West Delhi seat from where it had a few months ago named Rajpal Solanki as the Prabhari. Solanki had subsequently quit citing health reasons.
Earlier, both Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab and Sheila Dikshit, the newly appointed president of the Delhi Congress had opposed any kind of alliance with the AAP. Describing the attitude of the Congress leaders as arrogant and “far removed from realities”, a senior AAP leader had stated that his party would contest all the 30 seats in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, leaving no room for any conjectures.
In Delhi, the Congress will now be fighting for its existence since it has no members in either the Assembly or Parliament and it is unlikely that its nominees would stand a chance given the complete domination of city politics by both AAP and the BJP. In 2014, the BJP had won all the seven seats, though AAP nominees put up a valiant fight, leaving the Congress a distant third with most of its nominees forfeiting their deposit.
The AAP’s calculation is that the Congress has no presence at the grassroots level and the intense infighting in the BJP would certainly affect the chances of its candidates. It is likely that the BJP leadership may replace some of the non-performing MPs. Union Minister Vijay Goel has taken it upon himself to bail his party out in the capital and has now been supplementing the efforts of the Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tewari. The political equation that is likely to influence the outcome depends on how the Congress fares. If it consolidates itself and improves its vote percentage, the BJP would benefit. Otherwise, if the grand old party remains in its current state, the AAP may secure an advantage. However, given the current situation, it is virtually improbable that the Congress can win any seat on its own steam.
Having settled the issue of not entering into an alliance in the city, the AAP’s leadership is now all set to announce its strategy and candidates for both Punjab and Haryana. In 2014, the AAP had made its political debut in the Lok Sabha by winning four out of 13 seats from Punjab. The party is confident of retaining at least three of them. In Haryana, the presence of AAP candidates could ensure the defeat of Congress nominees as they would be breaking into the anti BJP vote share.
However, a senior Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity said that back channel negotiations with AAP had been going on and some last minute adjustments could happen once the big leaders from other parties intervene in order to have a joint fight against the BJP, which is seen as a common enemy by a number of opposition outfits.
AAP sources denied that any kind of arrangement could be reached with the Congress at this late stage. There had been a strong opposition to the proposed alliance with the Congress within the AAP since several leaders felt that such an understanding would hurt AAP in the long run.