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AAP’s latest gameplan to run with Congress, hunt with BJP

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By Sidharth Mishra

In their excitement to write the obituary of INDI alliance even before it has died, what has been overlooked is the turmoil within the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the political line to be taken during the Lok Sabha polls. After more than a decade of existence, the party born out of a people’s agitation has not been able to find much traction beyond the states of Delhi and Punjab.

It’s performance in some of the other states has largely been that of a group whose presence has harmed the chances of the anti-BJP forces. However, in the past two assembly elections of Karnataka and Telangana, it has been reduced to a position where it cannot even damage the interests of the main anti-BJP party, the Congress.

In the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhatishgarh and Rajasthan, in the last assembly polls AAP made neglible contribution towards the defeat of the Congress. Realising its diminishing influences and battered image, AAP leadership, battling serious charges of corruption is seeking reconciliation.

To put it in other words, it has put down the cloak of anti-Congressism and sought a partnership with them. Now this is not mere conjecture but signals have come from AAP’s top leaders meeting Congress president Mallikarjun Khadge and its most powerful leader Rahul Gandhi.

Given this backdrop, when AAP’s chief minister in Punjab, Bhagwant Mann says that whatever the party position, he plans to go alone in Punjab, may or may not alarm Arvind Kejriwal. Last week Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann announced that there will be no seat-sharing or tie-up with the Congress in Punjab for the Lok Sabha elections.

This announcement comes barely a few days after AAP-Congress leadership meeting. Mann’s remarks came close on the heels of another INDI alliance constituent, Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, announcing that her party would contest the Lok Sabha elections alone in the state.

However, Arvind Kejriwal, who pledges proximity of Mamata Banerjee, has so far refrained to speak on the matter. Interestingly, the AAP has entered into an alliance with the Congress for the Chandigarh mayoral poll. Just not Chandigarh, , according to reports, AAP and the Congress are in the midst of seat sharing talks in Delhi, Haryana, Goa and Gujarat.

In all the four states, the growth of AAP has been at the cost of the Congress. AAP’s presence has been instrumental in the Congress missing the bus in Haryana, failing to form government in Goa and performing poorly in Gujarat.

Incidentally, functionaries in Delhi Congress aren’t startled at the developments in the house of Arvind Kejriwal. Their line is that its AAP which has decide on the principle to go alone or come in the alliance. They say that they are okay with both the scenarios, as they are feeling that the results in Karnataka, Telangana, Chhatishgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have shown that AAP was losing momentum.

However, a deeper analysis of the situation would show that in the event of AAP going alone in Punjab, it would benefit another alliance in the making in Punjab between the Akalis and the Bharatiya Janata Party. With these two parties coming together and AAP and the Congress taking on each other, would definitely help the former. AAP would once again end up benefitting the BJP and damaging the Congress.

Why would Arvind Kejriwal want this especially when he is under blistering fire from the BJP and facing interrogation from the Enforcement Directorate in the liquor scam cases. Some indicate that he may want to buy peace with BJP and also survive in the INDI alliance by joining ranks with them where his party doesn’t matter much or doesn’t have any seats at stake.

(First Published in The Morning Standard)

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