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AAP to go it alone in Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana

The Aam Aadmi Party said on Friday that it will fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on its own, putting at rest months of speculation that it would ally with the Congress in a bid to take on their common political rival, the BJP.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Jan 18, 2019 22:27 IST

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
AAP leader Gopal Rai said his party was the only one to start a movement against the ‘corrupt’ Congress rule.
AAP leader Gopal Rai said his party was the only one to start a movement against the ‘corrupt’ Congress rule.(Biplov Bhuyan/HT Photo)
         

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said on Friday that it will fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on its own, putting at rest months of speculation that it would ally with the Congress in a bid to take on their common political rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The AAP will contest all Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana on its own. The party has always been against the principles of the Congress. The AAP was the only party to start a movement against corrupt Congress rule,” said Gopal Rai, who heads the Delhi unit of the party.

In national interest, AAP had been ready to ally with the Congress, but recent comments by Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dixit and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh show the party still retains an arrogant streak, Rai told a press conference at the residence of Delhi chief minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s residence.

His reference was to comments by Dikshit that the Congress was a national party and AAP was not, and Singh’s remarks that Delhi’s ruling party didn’t have a significant enough presence in the Punjab assembly.

Together, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana account for 30 Lok Sabha seats, and there had been speculation, which intensified after three-time chief minister Dikshit’s appointment this month as head of the Congress’s Delhi unit, that the party may ally with the AAP to put up a joint fight against the BJP.

Dikshit was the longest-reigning chief minister of Delhi, serving for 15 years from 1998 to 2013, when the advent of AAP ended Congress’s rule.

The Congress then propped up an AAP government that lasted 49 days before chief minister Kejriwal resigned following his failure to introduce a bill for appointing an anti-corruption ombudsman, Jan Lokpal.

The Congress and AAP failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat from the Capital in the 2014 general elections, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) grabbing all seven, and could not win a single seat in the 2015 assembly elections, which the AAP won by a landslide .

Rai said leaders of “like-minded parties”, such as Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra Pradesh CM N.Chandrababu Naidu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah had insisted on the AAP and Congress coming together to defeat the BJP in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

Rai, who is also Delhi’s labour minister, said the Punjab CM had belittled the AAP by calling it an “insignificant” opposition party in the state assembly. “In Delhi, Dikshit, over the past one week, has been saying the AAP is a small party and that the Congress, being a national party, would not compromise in any way. One should not forget that it was the AAP that brought down the 15-year Congress rule in Delhi,” he said.

Over the past few weeks, Kejriwal has met AAP representatives and volunteers and urged them to tell voters that voting for the Congress would mean victory for the BJP.

“In the last Lok Sabha election, (in Delhi) the BJP got 46% votes, the AAP obtained 33 % and the Congress 15%,” Kejriwal told AAP workers during one such meeting. “Surveys reveal the BJP is going to lose 10% of its vote share this time. You need to tell people that if these votes are polled by the AAP, it will win all seven seats in Delhi by securing 43% votes. You have to explain to people that voting for the Congress means victory for the BJP.”

The speculation of a possible alliance with the AAP had been discounted by Dikshit. A resolution passed last month by the Delhi assembly demanding that the Bharat Ratna awarded to late former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi be withdrawn over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had upset the Congress leadership, party members said.

“Who was stopping them earlier,” Haroon Yusuf, working president of the Delhi Congress, said about the AAP’s announcement. “We have maintained right from the beginning that the Congress party is capable of fighting the elections on its own under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.”

Amarinder Singh’s media adviser Raveen Thukral said a tie-up with AAP didn’t figure at his recent meeting with the Congress president.

“The CM had earlier conveyed the feelings of the entire cabinet and the state Congress that there is no need for an alliance with the AAP in Punjab and it has become a defunct organisation in the state. However, he had also said that the state unit will abide by the party high command’s decision on an alliance,” Thukral said.

The BJP said the Congress and AAP had been trying to forge an alliance out of concern that the good work done by the BJP-led central government would undermine their prospects in the Lok Sabha polls in Delhi.

“AAP was trying to forge an alliance with the Congress as it is apprehensive of its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. But with Dikshit ruling out the possibility, the party says that it will contest on its own… Kejriwal has only worked to mislead the people of Delhi by indulging in the politics of falsely accusing other parties,” said Manoj Tiwari, Delhi BJP chief.

First Published: Jan 18, 2019 22:27 IST