The Congress is planning to deploy the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) most powerful weapon — the aam aadmi — against the young party itself. The party will hold a referendum after this summer’s Lok Sabha elections if it should continue supporting the Kejriwal government.
In a carefully crafted strategy, the party has also decided not to pull the plug on the AAP government – Delhi’s first minority government -- till the general elections and give “a long rope to the new party to hang itself”.
“We will not withdraw support to AAP till the Lok Sabha elections. We don’t want to make them martyrs and gain public sympathy,” a Congress leader said. “But we will definitely ask the people of Delhi what they want us to do as far as the issue of continuing with the support is concerned,” he said.
Sources in the party said the strategy was given a final shape at a meeting recently in the backdrop of the two-day dramatic dharna by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his cabinet, demanding control over the Delhi Police and suspension of some policemen for alleged dereliction of duty. The sit-in, which virtually pitted the two parties against each other, was called off after two policemen were sent on leave.
While Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh Lovely didn’t respond to HT’s calls, the move was confirmed by his colleague Mukesh Sharma. “We will be going to people in Delhi for a referendum on the support issue. Whatever people say, we will do that… We will respect their verdict,” the senior Delhi Congress leader said.
In going to people, the Congress will give AAP the taste of its own medicine. The rookie party has all along maintained that it accepted the Congress’s support only because the people of Delhi asked it to do so. It often consults people on critical issues.
The party surprised everyone by winning 28 of the 70 Delhi assembly seats but ran eight short of the majority mark. A decimated Congress, with just eight members, stepped in and extended outside support to the party.
Congress strategists are of the view that it will not be sensible to withdraw support ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, as it will impact the party’s performance. However, they will keep the heat on the government, especially over the poll promises.
The Congress has repeatedly said it was supporting AAP only to ensure that the people of Delhi weren’t burdened with snap polls.