Opposition ‘unity’ hit, Congress says ‘no’ to AAP

New Delhi: The opposition’s desire to put up a united front against the BJP suffered a blow on Tuesday after the Congress refused to tie up with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi and a miffed Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal vowed to defeat the “unholy Congress-BJP alliance”.
With this, Delhi is set to see a triangular contest for Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats, all of which were won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 and where the AAP finished second in all places.
The Congress decision, putting to rest all speculation of a possible tie-up, was arrived at a meeting of its Delhi unit led by former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had with party President Rahul Gandhi at his residence here.
“Congress has unanimously taken a decision that there will be no alliance with AAP. The decision was taken in Rahul Gandhi’s presence and it is final,” Dikshit said later.
While the Delhi unit was firm on not aligning with the AAP from the beginning, the central leadership had been exploring the possibility of an understanding, harping on the need for all opposition parties to put up a united front against the BJP.
Besides Rahul Gandhi, Congress in-charge of Delhi PC Chacko had been a votary of the tie-up and had been trying to get Dikshit on board arguing that an alliance was likely to consolidate the anti-BJP vote.
However, according to informed sources, Dikshit stood her ground and was able to convince Gandhi not to go for an understanding with the AAP, claiming that the anti-incumbency against the Kejriwal government will adversely affect the Congress.
Dikshit also pointed out that the AAP had already declared candidates for six of the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. Among those present at the meeting were Congress Secretary Kuljit Singh Nagra and Delhi unit working Presidents Haroon Yusuf and Rajesh Lilothia and former president Ajay Maken. Maken is known to be bitterly opposed to the AAP.
Reacting strongly to the development, Kejriwal accused the Congress of having a “secret understanding” with the BJP.
“At a time when the whole country wants to defeat (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi-Amit Shah duo, Congress is helping BJP by splitting anti-BJP vote,” said Kejriwal.
“Rumours (are) that Congress has some secret understanding with BJP. Delhi is ready to fight against Cong-BJP alliance. People will defeat this unholy alliance,” he said.
Speaking in the same vein, AAP Minister Gopal Rai too accused the Congress of “unofficially helping” the BJP. “Congress has been speaking the language of BJP for some time.
AAP feels the way the BJP has helped the Congress win in Punjab, the Congress is unofficially helping the BJP win Delhi now,” Rai told the media here.
The Congress snub to the AAP is being perceived as a blow to the larger opposition’s bid to put up a united front against the BJP and Modi.
Even during the February 13 opposition parties’ meet in which they had resolved to have a pre-poll pact to defeat the BJP, the Congress had appeared to keep its options open about tying up with the AAP.
A day later, Kejriwal claimed that the Congress had almost said ‘no’ for an alliance with the AAP. At the height of the Modi wave, the BJP got 46 per cent of Lok Sabha votes in Delhi in 2014 while the AAP, which was not in power then, earned nearly 33 per cent.
The Congress, despite having ruled Delhi for 15 long years, polled around 15 per cent and did not retain any seat.In the later Assembly elections, the AAP won a staggering 67 of the 70 seats and the BJP picked up the remaining three. The Congress was wiped out.