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With Congress Fortunes On Upswing, Kejriwal’s Attempts At Alliance in Delhi Could Come Cropper

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By Sidharth Mishra

Delhi Assembly is celebrating 25 years of its existence in it’s present form. In keeping with the current political trend in the national Capital, this event too has courted controversy. The polls in Delhi assembly, ever since it came into existence in 1993, too were used to be held along with states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh (since 2003), Rajasthan and Mizoram.

The cycle broke in 2013 following the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The polls five years ago threw up a hung house in the national Capital and Arvind Kejriwal became Chief Minister for the first time, with the support of eight Congress MLAs. Kejriwal did not hold onto the chair for long and soon resigned from office leading to subsequent dissolution of the assembly and fresh polls in 2015.

Kejriwal’s rise in Delhi was at the cost of the Congress party, which till then had won three assembly elections (1998, 2003 and 2008) under the stewardship of Sheila Dikshit, who held the office of the Chief Minister for three unprecedented terms. Despite being an icon of development-oriented politics, Dikshit could not withstand the political tsunami created by charges of corruption brought mostly against the central Congress leaders and faced humiliating defeat in 2013.

Five years later, Sheila Dikshit is itching for battle once again. In the past five years her services were used by the party first in Kerala as Governor and later in Uttar Pradesh as Chief Ministerial face of an aborted poll campaign. Having recuperated from a heart ailment, Dikshit has said even on the public forums that she was not averse to returning to Delhi politics, if the leadership desired so.

What would Dikshit’s return to Delhi politics mean? Certainly not the general conjectures of the sidelining of present president Ajay Maken and alliance with the AAP. While Maken has opposed any alliance with the ruling party tooth-and-nail, Dikshit has been shifting position. From being soft towards Kejriwal’s outfit last summer, she has of late turned critical of the way AAP government has been working.

Some even point that Maken’s offer to resign on the health grounds was largely to offset the old guard’s attempts of having some kind of a truck with the AAP. But this desire for alliance would now get much diluted after the just concluded round of the assembly elections. The polls held in the five states have added greater value to the perception that the AAP has no presence outside Delhi.

In Delhi too, from being a party propelled by the aspirations of the educated middle-class, it’s today fighting hard to project itself as representative of the Baniya and Poorvanchal communities as the middle-class has deserted it. Where does that leave the Dalit and Muslim votes, which stayed with AAP even during the 2017 municipal polls.

There are 27 out of the 90 assembly seats in the national Capital where the Dalits and Muslims have influential presence and their vote decisive. If the trend in the Hindi heartland states which went to the polls recently are anything to the go, the two communities have started to consolidate behind the Congress.

Insiders in the Congress point towards the fact that the Dalits refused to bite the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) bait in Chhattisgarh, where the in-charge for Congress campaign was a former Mayawati top aide, PL Punia. In Delhi, however, among the Dalits there is a large chunk of Valmiki population, which in 2013 had identified very closely with the ‘broom’ poll symbol of the AAP. In fact, they were their first supporters outside the middle class.

During the 2015 assembly polls, the minorities too had strategically shifted their support to the AAP, thus creating a humungous combination of the middle-class, minorities and Dalits. Will that combination of support once again happen for the AAP? Unlikely, as the figures of the 2017 municipal polls showed that party’s vote share was already down to 26 percent from 54 percent during the 2015 assembly polls.

In the past two years, the AAP has only invited loathe and criticism through its infightings and skirmishes with one and all and delivering almost nil governance to the national Capital. Moreover, the Dalit and the Minority voters may realise, if the recent poll trends in other states are anything to go by, that a vote for the AAP only strengthens the BJP in the city where the saffron party’s vote share has remained stagnant between 32-36 percent.

The governance vacuum and tussle between the Centre and the state government, has started a narrative among the citizen on missing the time when Dikshit was Chief Minister. In these five years, the Congress party has also been able to bury the ghost of alleged corruption charges against them, especially those related to the Commonwealth Games. This has provided them with a clean slate to start for campaign for comeback.

But this campaign cannot be led by Dikshit alone, and there would have to be distribution of power and responsibility between her and Maken, who has been leading the party in the national Capital in the most challenging times. The two together are capable of rejuvenating the cadre and the support base.

To their advantage is the fact that Delhi BJP under an uninspiring and clueless Manoj Tiwari is much emaciated of its organizational strength. And unlike 2013, Kejriwal this time would be hard pressed to defend his government and not launching blistering, often baseless attacks, on the party in power.    

(First Published In News18.com)

 

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