The inside story of Congress: AAP break up in Delhi

The enigmatic tweet of Rahul Gandhi winking at yet another U-turn by Arvind Kejriwal revealed little but hinted at a lot more

Aam Aadmi Party candidate Atishi Marlena’s roadshow in Laxmi Nagar, New Delhi before filing her nominations
Aam Aadmi Party candidate Atishi Marlena’s roadshow in Laxmi Nagar, New Delhi before filing her nominations

S Khurram Raza

AAP Convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Congress President Rahul Gandhi met last month at the residence of Sharad Pawar in New Delhi. Both Pawar and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had interceded on behalf of Aam Aadmi Party and persuaded Rahul Gandhi to agree to an alliance in Delhi.

The meeting, confide Congress sources, ended on an amicable note and with the understanding that both Congress and AAP would contest three seats each in Delhi and an independent candidate, either Yashwant Sinha or Shatrughan Sinha, would be put up from the remaining constituency and would be supported by both the parties.

A few days later, allege Congress leaders, the AAP convenor conveyed that AAP would like to contest from four seats in Delhi and Congress could contest the remaining three. The Congress President apparently gave this proposal also the green signal.

But then Mr Kejriwal returned with the message that the alliance in Delhi could take place only if Congress got into an alliance in Haryana as well. In addition, AAP informed that it would have an alliance in Haryana with JJP (Jannayak Janata Party) and that the Congress would have to concede seats to both.

This was vehemently opposed by the Haryana unit of the Congress. It felt that AAP had no organisation in the state and realistically had no claim. What’s more, Assembly election in Haryana is due later this year and Congress would have to contest against both BJP and JJP in the state. Therefore, the state unit told the party leadership that it made no sense to concede seats to JJP.

While this was being conveyed to AAP, the latter raised the demand that it would like to contest from Chandigarh and Goa as well. By now the Congress leadership, these sources, say, was exasperated and communicated that while Congress was still willing to negotiate over seats in Haryana, Chandigarh and Goa would not be on the table.

While opposition leaders put pressure on the Congress leadership, the Congress apparently agreed to leave three of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana, two for the JJP and one for AAP. It was also decided that Naveen Jaihind, husband of Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal will be given a seat of his choice.

According to these sources, AAP’s negotiating team comprising three Rajya Sabha members of AAP from Delhi, namely Sanjay Singh, Sushil Gupta and N D Gupta not just agreed but were quite happy with the arrangement and left.

But when AAP backtracked once again, it proved to be the last straw. One of the people involved in the negotiation quipped, “AAP was behaving in a bizarre fashion and insisting that it would attend the party only if its neighbour too is invited and the Congress touched the feet of its friend. It was clear that it was just not interested in an alliance.”

A Congress leader said that the party did not want anti-BJP votes to split in Delhi; and therefore, despite misgivings and information that AAP was behaving like the B team of BJP, the party went out of its way to humour AAP. The Congress leadership went to the extent of overruling the state units in order to accommodate AAP in both Delhi and Haryana. But when Mr Kejriwal kept shifting the goalposts, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was forced to tweet that Congress was ready to cede four seats in Delhi for AAP, but Mr Kejriwal had made yet another U-turn.

Congress sources acknowledge that BJP would be the gainer in Delhi. “But while Congress still stands a chance of winning some of the seats in Delhi, AAP has not only been a spoilsport but may end up winning not even one seat in Delhi,” was his dire prediction.

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