No gain in pact with AAP, Punjab Congress tells high command
A divided AAP is to the advantage of the Congress, whether or not it opts for an alliance. If it does, the Congress gets better bargaining power over the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab and may concede fewer seats to the former.punjab Updated: Aug 08, 2018 09:55 IST
The Congress leadership in Punjab has apprised the party high command that there will be no gain if they go for an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state for the parliamentary elections next year.
Highly placed sources in the Congress said even if the two parties are part of the grand alliance that non-BJP parties are trying to forge ahead of 2019 polls against the NDA regime, the possibility of an alliance with AAP in Punjab is bleak.
However, AAP’s Bholath MLA Sukhpal Khaira, after being unceremoniously sacked as the leader of opposition in the assembly, had dubbed his removal as a political conspiracy, saying the move was part of a deal between his party and the Congress for the proposed alliance.
“The feedback from all top office-bearers, including chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, is against an alliance as they feel AAP has lost its ground. Even at the peak of its popularity during the 2017 polls, it got 20 seats. What will the Congress gain by conceding seats in a state where it is most likely to win them,” a senior party functionary said.
Amarinder had said at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting at New Delhi last month that the party does not need an alliance with AAP in Punjab as it had lost the support of people. He, however, left it to the party high command to take the final call, an indication that the possibility cannot be ruled out.
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar rubbished Khaira’s assertion that his sacking was at the behest of Congress. “It is quite opportunistic on part of Khaira to say that the Congress wanted him out after he has been kicked out as the leader of oppositon. He was the first one to call for an alliance with the Congress as leader of opposition. Now, he is smelling a conspiracy as he has burnt bridges on all sides. The game is up for the AAP in Punjab. We will convey our views on whether to ally with it as and when asked by Congress president Rahul Gandhi,” Jakhar said.
But Rahul is keen on sewing up an anti-Modi alliance at the national level and may bring AAP on board. Congress general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs, Asha Kumari, said it is not for them to decide on the matter. “It is a call Sonia Gandhi as the UPA chairperson will take,” she said.
But a divided AAP is to the advantage of the Congress, whether or not it opts for an alliance. If it does, the Congress gets better bargaining power over the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab and may concede fewer seats to the former.
There is opposition within the AAP too. Supreme Court lawyer and Dakha legislator HS Phoolka has declared to quit if his party aligns with the Congress, which he says was responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The coming together of AAP and Congress may queer the pitch for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has already lost the second slot to Arvind Kejriwal’s party. Akalis are reportedly wooing AAP’s rebel MLAs. There are reports of former Akali minister Bikram Singh Majithia meeting Khaira, but the latter has denied it.
“The Akalis are trying to buy out AAP legislators to get the chair of leader of opposition. If Kejriwal can apologise to Majithia, anything is possible,” Jakhar added. The Congress’ Delhi unit too has opposed a coalition with AAP.
First Published: Aug 08, 2018 09:54 IST