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Congress split over allying with Kejriwal’s AAP for 2019 elections

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, the Left parties and even the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu all want the AAP in the grand alliance, however Congress is divided on the issue with the party’s Delhi unit chief Ajay Maken strongly opposing any tie-up.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2018 07:43 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,AAP,Aam Aadmi Party
A combination photograph of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and AAP chief Arvind-Kejriwal.(HT File Photo)

The Congress is caught in a bind over the inclusion of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the proposed grand alliance to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019, highlighting one of the fundamental problems in such a grouping.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) are keen on Arvind Kejriwal’s party being part of the rainbow coalition (in the making) but the Congress is divided on the issue with the party’s Delhi unit chief Ajay Maken strongly opposing any tie-up with the AAP.

Another section in the party favours an alliance with the AAP in the three states of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana. A senior Congress leader, who is supportive of the idea, met party president Rahul Gandhi for more than two hours a few weeks ago. The leaders of this section are of the view that the Congress and the AAP have a common agenda of ousting the BJP from power at the Centre and the two parties together could reap rich electoral dividends in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana where Kejriwal’s party has a “considerable” support base.

“When you are fighting a big battle against a vicious enemy, small issues have to be put on the back burner. We have to show large heartedness and take everybody along in this fight and especially when the objective is same,” said a Congress leader who favours a tie-up with the AAP for 2019 and who asked not to be identified.

However, Maken blames the AAP for the rise of the BJP nationally. “The AAP is not a secular party at all. During the Anna Hazare movement, all of its leaders sided with Baba Ramdev and Kiran Bedi and they were responsible for bringing Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. Moreover, the AAP is highly discredited now and its graph is consistently going down. Why should we come to its rescue?” he asked.

Maken said the secular parties should understand that in Delhi since 1981, the BJP has been able to form a government only once (1993) in the past 37 years.

But SP president Akhilesh Yadav, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, the Left parties and even the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu all want the AAP in the grand alliance. The Janata Dal (Secular) too is not opposed to the idea.

Perhaps that was the reason JD(S) leader and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda invited Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony at Bengaluru last month.

Some of these parties are expected to step up efforts to broker peace between the Congress and the AAP in the coming days.

In some ways, the dilemma facing the Congress is the one most parties that are part of this alliance face. Analysts say it is almost inconceivable to think of the TMC and the Left parties, bitter enemies in West Bengal, to be part of the same grand alliance at the national level.

While Kejriwal is not involved in the alliance talks, AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh is meeting the leaders of different opposition parties to discuss the strategy for 2019.

In the by-elections in Kairana (Uttar Pradesh), AAP supported the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Tabassum Hassan Khan. After her victory, Singh met Yadav and discussed the strategy for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“BJP is the biggest threat to the nation. Firstly, it has divided the country on caste and religion lines. Secondly, they want to divert the attention from the basic issues of price rise, farm distress, education, unemployment, water and electricity. The main priority of all the Indians should be to remove the BJP from power,” he said.

Singh welcomed the initiatives of the grand alliance in Kairana and Noorpur by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and the tie-up between the Congress and the JD(S) in Karnataka. “But as far as the AAP is concerned, we are not formally a part of any alliance so far and we have not initiated any talks in this regard yet,” he said.

Political observers say that the time has come for localised regional alliances as had happened in Kairana. “The Congress should come to an understanding with AAP in the specific context of Delhi and Punjab. It should talk about having a concrete agenda and come to an agreement to face the common challenge,” said Delhi-based political analyst Professor Balveer Arora.

“Burying the past is often difficult and not too much time should be spent on it. What is important is to understand the context they will facing the future and take a decision accordingly.”

First Published: Jun 10, 2018 07:26 IST