Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal’s public desperation to forge an alliance with the Congress ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls could have wide-ranging political ramifications for him in case the proposal materialises. The move reeks of deception, particularly after the AAP has virtually finalised candidates for six of the seven Parliamentary seats from the capital, though some of its nominees may not end up as winners.
Moreover, what Kejriwal needs to factor in, is that by providing the Congress support in form of seat adjustment, the AAP would be facilitating the revival of the grand old party in the city, which would impact its own prospects in the 2020 Assembly polls. From a political standpoint, it would be prudent for the AAP not to resuscitate the Congress, given that as of present, it does not have a single seat in either the Parliament or the Assembly.
The ground reality is that the AAP has replaced the Congress in areas where it used to be strong. Therefore, if any of Congress leaders were to win from Delhi, the AAP saga would suffer a major setback. The question that comes to mind is that why an astute politician like Kejriwal should publicly plead for an alliance with its rival? The political equation being that a weak Congress would favour the AAP, while a stronger Congress would be beneficial for the BJP. The Congress, on its own steam, not by any stretch of imagination, can win a single seat from the metropolis.
On the other hand, the AAP could pose a major challenge to the saffron brigade, though by deciding not to field any MLAs for the Lok Sabha, its leadership has perhaps not acted with the requisite wisdom. Some of its MLAs could have readily won, and those who are now expected to be its flag bearers may have to struggle in order to get the better of the BJP. From North West Delhi, Rakhi Birla, who had lost in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by the lowest margin, could have been extremely formidable, but is barred from contesting due to the party’s internal politics.
As far as other seats are concerned there could have been better options. Raghav Chadha, amongst the most recognisable AAP faces, would have been an ideal nominee from New Delhi, but is likely to contest from a largely rural and Poorvanchali dominated South Delhi. He is a resident of New Delhi, having done his schooling and college from the capital and thus would have been the natural choice.
The AAP’s dilemma is that it is wary regarding the mindset that exists in the walled city among some sections. They believe that only a national party can take on the BJP in a general election, and therefore, the Congress should be supported. It was largely to send home a strong message to this community that Kejriwal chose to talk about the proposed alliance from near the Jama Masjid. He consciously spoke about his party’s commitment in defeating the BJP, while emphasising that the task would become easier if the Congress was to come on board.
It is simple arithmetic that if the anti-BJP vote does not get divided, the BJP would find it difficult to obtain even a single seat. The second thought, linked to the first one, which the AAP chief desires to give concrete shape, is that by accommodating the Congress in two or three seats from Delhi, he would be able to bargain for the four seats his party had won from Punjab. Captain Amarinder Singh has made it amply clear that he would do no business with the Delhi Chief Minister. Yet, it is pertinent for Kejriwal to extend his footprint beyond Delhi so that his party is viewed as a national player finding a berth in the Union government provided the BJP loses power.
Delhi Congress president, Sheila Dikshit is outraged that Kejriwal was simply putting on a visually noisy act regarding the alliance in the media since he has not even bothered to contact her. In actuality, Kejriwal has been urging both Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar to negotiate on his behalf with the Congress high command, without bringing in the local leadership. If an alliance was to materialise, Sheila would want the ticket to be given from East Delhi to her son, Sandeep Dikshit, with Ajay Maken jumping into the fray from New Delhi. Sources said that Kapil Sibal is also considering contesting from Chandni Chowk if a tie-up with AAP transpires.
There are also some Congress leaders, who are seeking the party nomination so that they could use their personal contacts to gather funds that could help them last in the political arena for another five years—a practice that has been prevalent in the party for a long time. The idea is that when sure of losing, continue to prod on, acquiring the ticket and collecting donations. The misfortune of the Congress is that it does not have any mass leader, and to make things worse, it possesses no organisational network as well.
The BJP is on the back foot and is likely to replace some of its nominees. Union Minister Vijay Goel has taken it upon himself to strengthen the party, knowing fully that efforts being made by Manoj Tewari need to be augmented. Kejriwal could easily occupy the pole position, but must, once again, pay heed to his choice of candidates. Between us.