Lok Sabha elections 2019: AAP, Congress set to open fresh talks for Delhi alliance
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday said it will initiate fresh talks with the Congress to “convince” the latter to agree to an alliance in Haryana and Chandigarh, apart from Delhi. The AAP, however, said its candidates for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi will start filing their nomination papers beginning on Thursday given the uncertainty surrounding an alliance between the two parties.
AAP’s top leadership – Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Gopal Rai — met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss how the party would present to the Congress its case for an alliance covering 18 parliamentary seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. These include the seven in Delhi, 10 in Haryana and one in Chandigarh.
The last date of filing nominations in Delhi and Haryana is April 23 (Tuesday), which means the Congress and AAP have at the most a week to seal an alliance.
“Neither an alliance will be forged nor broken on Twitter. AAP wants to talk about the alliance by meeting a Congress representative face-to-face. In today’s meeting, held at AAP national convener Kejriwal’s residence, it was decided that Sanjay Singh will do the talks from our side,” said senior party leader Rai.
Congress has previously declined an alliance with the AAP in states other than Delhi on grounds that the ground realities differed from state to state. In Delhi, it has offered to contest three seats, leaving four to AAP.
Efforts for an alliance in Delhi have been driven by a desire to not divide the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) votes in the capital, where the two parties together secured a vote share that was higher than that of the BJP in 2014 although the latter won all seven seats.
Delhi deputy chief minister Sisodia urged Congress president Rahul Gandhi to also appoint a party delegate to firm up a seat-sharing deal to defeat the BJP in the 18 seats. AAP’s response came a day after Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Kejriwal got into a public spat on Twitter over the alliance efforts. Gandhi had said the Congress had already offered AAP four seats in Delhi and it was up to the latter to decide. Sparring between the two parties continued on Tuesday with Delhi Congress in-charge PC Chacko saying that the AAP was creating a “big show” on social media, but on the negotiating table, it was stuck with “impractical demands”.
“Their demands are nowhere near the ground reality. Apart from statements to the media and social media posts they (AAP) have shown no willingness to proceed with the talks,” he said.
Chacko said that after Gandhi’s tweet on Monday, he had sent a message to AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh for negotiations. “I have been waiting for a reply,” he said.
Singh, however, said the AAP was still “unaware” of the person being delegated by the Congress for the talks. “So far, neither do we know who is going to do the talking from the Congress, nor have we received any kind of communication from them,” the AAP leader said on Tuesday evening.
When asked to respond to Congress’s claim that the AAP, by seeking to extend the alliance beyond Delhi,was trying to increase its presence in national politics, Rai questioned what was wrong in the party doing so.
“It is good if by doing so AAP’s presence will increase. Congress should not have a problem with that. In fact, the Congress should support and help in increasing the presence of all opposition parties. That is how the BJP’s presence will decrease in the country. The Congress should do away with its arrogance and think with a cool head,” he said.
Rai, who is also Delhi’s labour minister, said the party’s west Delhi nominee Balbir Singh Jakhar would file his nomination on Thursday and Chandni Chowk candidate Pankaj Gupta, east Delhi candidate Atishi and north-west Delhi nominee Gugan Singh would file their nominations on Saturday. On Monday, south Delhi candidate Raghav Chadha, north -east Delhi candidate Dilip Pandey and New Delhi candidate Brajesh Goel would file their nomination papers.
He said before filing their nomination papers, the candidates would perform a road show in which senior party leaders would participate.
On Monday, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused the Kejriwal-led AAP of making a “U-turn” over the alliance talks, prompting the Delhi chief minister to hit back at him, questioning what “U-turn” was he talking about when the “talks were still on”.
Delhi goes to the polls on May 12 and, so far, only the AAP has declared its candidates for all seven parliamentary constituencies.