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Ajay Maken locks horns with Sheila Dikshit, says won't contest Lok Sabha elections if Congress doesn't finalise alliance with AAP

The prolonged uncertainty over pre-election alliance between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress has exposed fault lines within the Delhi unit of the grand old party. Former Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken has gone public with his revolt and announced that he will not contest elections unless the party stitches up an alliance with AAP in the National Capital, media reports said.

Maken's latest move probably won't go down too well with Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit who has been quite vocal about her opposition to any alliance with the AAP. This in itself is not news as alliance talks, and reshuffle of internal ranks, often polarises party workers between the stalwarts within the political party, until a final decision is reached. However, what is interesting is that Dikshit's aversion to an alliance and Maken's proclivity towards it are both newfound.

 Ajay Maken locks horns with Sheila Dikshit, says wont contest Lok Sabha elections if Congress doesnt finalise alliance with AAP

File image of Congress leader Ajay Maken. News18

Maken and Dikshit seem to have swapped their roles on the issue of alliance with AAP and are now seen sparring with each other over their new-found zeal. Maken, who strongly opposed any alliance with AAP when he was the head of Delhi Congress, is now backing an internal party survey, on Congress' inter-party app, Shakti App, seeking views from party workers on whether or not to ally with AAP in the upcoming elections.

On the other hand, Dikshit who was known to be soft towards a possible alliance with AAP, is now strongly opposing the survey, terming it an attempt to cause confusion. She asserts that there is no change in the Congress leadership's decision to not ally with AAP.

The reversal of positions seems to have happened around the same time that Dikshit took over the helm of Delhi Congress from Maken.

Earlier too, Maken had expressed his support for the alliance and offered to give up his traditional New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, which he represented twice and lost to BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi in 2014, for "larger interest of the alliance" if need be. He had been campaigning in the area ever since he gave up the post of Delhi Congress chief.

"I have been conducting these meetings in the capacity of a two-time MP from the area and a former Cabinet minister. The idea was to get things moving on the campaign front for the party and it was not for pre-empting anything," Maken had told Hindustan Times.

Dikshit, however, had opposed the survey saying it was "overriding" Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's decision that the Delhi Congress was against the alliance. "Our stand (against alliance) remains what it was. Rahulji is not in Delhi. He does not give orders for such surveys," she had said

Earlier this month, Dikshit, after meeting Rahul, had claimed that there was unanimity in the party against an alliance with the AAP. Opinion seems to be divided in the Congress over the issue. Many believe that it is necessary to have an alliance in Delhi to take on the BJP.

"We do not think it will be an easy task for us to fight against the resurgent BJP and the ruling AAP in Delhi in the Lok Sabha elections. Also, things will be tougher for us as both the Congress and the AAP have the same voter base which will be split if there is no alliance," a senior Delhi Congress leader told PTI.

However, the opponents of the alliance in the party believe that the move will be "suicidal" as the Congress has to face the Delhi Assembly polls early next year and its main rival will be the ruling AAP.

Four former Delhi Congress chiefs — Ajay Maken, Subhash Chopra, Tajdar Babar and Arvinder Singh Lovely —  are said to be in favour of alliance with the AAP. Sheila Dikshit, and three working presidents of Delhi Congress — Devender Yadav, Rajesh Lilothia and Haroon Yusuf —  are against the idea of aligning with the AAP.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Apr 03, 2019 10:16:10 IST

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