Why Congress rejected AAP ‘feelers’ for alliance to beat Modi in 2019

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New Delhi | Updated: July 9, 2018 3:27:03 PM

The Congress party has decided not to have any understanding with its Delhi rival - Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

kejriwal rahul gandhiLok Sabha elections 2019: Rahul Gandhi’s Congress has rejected AAP “feelers” for having an understanding. (PTI files)

The Congress party has decided not to have any understanding with its Delhi rival – Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In recent weeks, several reports claimed that AAP was sending “feelers” to the Congress for an understanding ahead of the 2019 General Elections. The decision by the grand old party, now led by Rahul Gandhi, against any pact with the AAP is believed to be based on an internal survey and views of the top leadership of the party’s Delhi unit.

According to a Hindustan Times report, an internal survey and discussions at several levels convinced the Congress that it would be against its interests to opt for an alliance with Kejriwal’s party. The survey showed Congress winning 3-4 out of seven parliamentary seats in Delhi where it will be in a direct fight with the BJP. Congress’ Delhi unit in-charge PC Chako told HT that people who previously voted for Kejriwal’s party, would come back to the Congress fold again, as several sections are “disillusioned with both Kejriwal and the BJP.”

Congress’ top Delhi leaders Ajay Maken, Shiela Dikshit and others are also against an AAP-Congress understanding. The leaders believe that a momentum in the favour of Rahul Gandhi is building across the country and the Congress is sure to benefit from it.

An ABP News-CSDS Survey in May this year said that popularity of Rahul Gandhi is on the rise. In January, the Congress president was the PM pick for 18% Dalits and 27% Adivasis in the survey. This increased to 25% and 30% respectively in May. The difference between popularity percentage points of PM Narendra Modi and Gandhi had also declined from 17 in January to 10 in May. Gandhi’s overall popularity point was 24%, while for Modi it was 34%.

In last year’s municipal’s elections, AAP had suffered a drastic vote-share cut from 54.3% in Delhi Assembly elections 2015 to just 26.1% in 2017.

In the first week of last month, The Indian Express had cited Congress sources as saying that AAP made at least three bids to keep channels of communication open with its leadership in the last three months. The Congress’ claim came after AAP leader Dilip Pandey said that Congress wanted its support in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, according to IE.

The speculation of an AAP-Congress alliance also became rife when Kejriwal’s party announced its decision to release names of in-charges of only five Lok Sabha seats of Delhi, instead of seven.

Congress Delhi unit chief Ajay makan had earlier said that party workers and leaders were not in the favour of an alliance with AAP. “The Congress workers and leaders are not in favour of any alliance with AAP,” Maken said.

While the AAP has denied sending any “feelers” to the Congress ahead of the 2019 polls, a tie-up with the grand old party in Delhi would also help the fledgling party’s ambitions outside Delhi. Going into 2019, AAP finds itself in a peculiar position, a kind of a misfit in the ‘united opposition’s’ larger scheme of things ahead of the 2019 elections. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal was relegated to the back benches at the opposition’s show of strength at HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony as Karnataka Chief Minister.

A political message was evident when the Congress decided against supporting AAP during its sit-in protest at Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal’s residence last month despite several opposition leaders rallying in support of Kejriwal.

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