AAP-Cong bickering, BJP waiting: No clarity in Delhi

AAP-Cong bickering, BJP waiting: No clarity in Delhi

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal talks to the media after a meeting with opposition leaders, in New Delhi, Sunday, April 14, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Just a week left for filing nominations, Delhi has thrown up an interesting scenario – voters have no clue about whom to choose, top leaders are not working phone lines but relying on Twitter to stitch an alliance and their opponent just endlessly waiting for what surprise is in store.

With time running out, Congress and AAP are still bickering over an electoral alliance despite both insisting that only their coming together can rout the BJP in seven Lok Sabha seats in the capital.

The last date of filing nomination is April 23, which is next Tuesday, and the polling is on May 12.

The opposition has their candidates in mind – AAP has announced its seven candidates and Congress has unofficially given out names of four candidates and indicated three other possible nominees, including former Chief Minister and Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit – but the uncertainty has affected their campaign.

Uncertainty on the question of the coalition has also upset the calculations of the BJP as it could not get the first-mover advantage by announcing its candidates. It wants to wait for the candidates of the coalition if it happens.

Also, the internal tussle within Delhi BJP is also playing out. The central leadership was not very enthusiastic about the first list of probables sent by the Delhi unit and wanted it to re-work for further consultations.

On Monday evening, a day before the Election Commission was to issue the notification for the Lok Sabha polls for the seven seats in Delhi, the chatter on alliance gained momentum when Congress president Rahul Gandhi upped the ante accusing AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal of taking a "u-turn" on the alliance.

Gandhi made it clear that his party was willing to play AAP's junior partner in the capital by leaving four out of seven seats for Kejriwal but was unwilling to cede an inch in Haryana or elsewhere. Congress will play out its willingness to settle for just three seats in Delhi as its eagerness for an alliance while pitting AAP as the villian in the piece in case alliance would not work.

As Gandhi's tweet immediately invited Kejriwal's retort that coalition is not what Gandhi wishes but “just a pretence”, it was left to Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, a strong votary for alliance in Delhi, to "set the record straight".

Patel said in a late-night tweet that the Delhi Congress was opposed to the idea of an alliance with Congress but it was the Congress president who convinced the state leadership and asked them to work out a formula to collaborate with AAP in Delhi. "But they (AAP) insisted for seats in Haryana. Our proposition still stands, the ball is in their court," he tweeted.

AAP has been insisting that a triangular contest would benefit BJP only, a theme which is echoed by a section of Congress barring Dikshit and her supporters. However, the AAP had last week said that Congress was not willing to give it seats in Haryana and the deal in Delhi was off.

While senior leaders like Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Delhi chief Ajay Maken and AICC in-charge P C Chacko were in support of an alliance, Dikshit-led camp was not in favour of any tie-up with AAP.

They are of the view that an alliance for the Lok Sabha would be “suicidal” as it cannot enter into any understanding with AAP in the Assembly polls early next year. An alliance with AAP in Assembly polls would mean Congress would have to forget the claim for the pole political position in capital and will have to play second fiddle to Kejriwal, they felt.

These groups cite the rising vote share of Congress as a reason for their stand. However, the pro-alliance group feel that decimating BJP in Delhi, though the numbers are very less, and willingness to enter into an alliance would have more political significance than going in for a short-term gain.

AAP's vote share sharply declined from 54.59% in 2015 to 26.23% two years later while Congress rose from a low of 9.70% to 21.09%.

BJP's vote share also increased during this period from 32.78% to 36.08%. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP polled 46.63% riding on Modi wave while AAP garnered 33.08% and Congress 15.22%.