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Cong picks AAP’s tab in Delhi to safeguard interests elsewhere

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By Sidharth Mishra

Finally the alliance between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress has been announced with the former to contest four of the seven seats and the Congress remaining three seats. Despite the fact that the ruling party of Delhi is fighting a grim battle of survival given its alleged involvements in corruption cases, the Congress has decided to close ranks with the adversary to safeguard its interests in Goa, Gujarat, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Soon after the announcements, AAP was back to usual histrionics saying that as soon as reports of finalisation of seat-sharing talks between the Congress and the AAP started coming in, the Enforcement Directorate sent a seventh summon to AAP boss and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor scam case. Delhi Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj told media persons, “We have learnt from reliable sources that the CBI is planning to arrest Kejriwal in the next two to three days.” 

If this situation arises, and thinking of a campaign against BJP in Delhi in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls with Kejriwal behind bars, it would mar opposition's grand plans in the national Capital. There are seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi and all were won by the BJP in the 2019 polls. This was the repeat of its 2014 performance by the saffron party.

During the 2014 polls, the combined vote share of the Congress and the AAP was more than that of the BJP. However, in 2019, the BJP was far ahead of the combined vote share of AAP and Congress. The question is, given such performances in the past, would it be difficult for the BJP to win all the seven seats in 2024 Lok Sabha polls with the AAP and the Congress fighting together.

In the 2019 polls, in South and North-West Delhi, AAP was on the second position and Mahabal Mishra, then in Congress and now in AAP, was second placed in West Delhi on Congress ticket. Mishra’s son Vinay Mishra is AAP’s MLA from Dwarka assembly seat.

Under the current arrangement, while AAP would contest the South and West Delhi seats, North-West has been ceded to the Congress. In exchange Congress has passed on New Delhi and East Delhi seats, on which in 2019 its candidates were Ajay Maken and Arvinder Singh Lovely respectively.

With Maken, now treasurer of the All India Congress Committee, all set to enter Rajya Sabha from Karnataka and Lovely heading the Delhi Congress, giving New Delhi and East Delhi seats looks to be a good bargain. What remains with the Congress are Chandni Chowk, North East Delhi and North West Delhi. On these seats it’s in a position to place formidable candidates - former MPs JP Agarwal, Sandeep Dikshit and former Delhi Minister Rajkumar Chauhan among some more others.

However, the elections are not predicted alone on the basis of vote shares in the past polls but also the potential of the candidates in the poll fray. During the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, as mentioned earlier, even the combined votes polled by AAP and the Congress candidates did not measure up to the votes polled by the BJP candidates. BJP in 2019 played on its bench strength changing sitting members on two seats – East Delhi and North-West Delhi and romping home on all the seven seats.

While BJP has both the bench strength and a well-oiled poll machinery and the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as mascot, AAP, the senior partner in the opposition alliance, by their own admission, would have a leaderless campaign in the event of Kejriwal’s arrest. This could ease things for the BJP leaders, who themselves are fighting anti-incumbency, in some cases of two terms. Will the BJP change its candidates, is a valid question to ask.

Nevertheless, as of now it’s clear that the Congress has taken the liability of AAP in Delhi to safeguard its interests in other states where the ruling party of Delhi has been repeatedly cutting into the grand old party’s vote banks.

(First Published in The Morning Standard)


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