Congress wary of AAP-L-G slugfest fallout, but party needs to work out stance quickly or risk irrelevance

The ongoing slugfest in Delhi has a crucial bearing on the Congress, which is more vulnerable than the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP in the national capital.

The Congress' decision to stay neutral in the unrelenting battle between Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has generated lot of criticism in the context of similar treatment meted out by another lieutenant governor in another state. But clearly, Puducherry and plight of Chief Minister V Narayanasamy is not on priority list of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

To be fair to the Congress, Kejriwal’s unconventional and no-holds barred approach to politics has made the grand old party extremely wary of AAP. The Congress still has a lot of regard for old school politics as stipulated in the Westminster Model of parliamentary democracy. The Congress concept of a political 'lok-lajja' and 'maryada' entails that a protest by a serving chief minister should be symbolic and temporary where even courting arrest is a “no go”.

The idea of naming, shaming and putting forth unsubstantiated and wild allegations is an anathema. In this context, Congress and AAP’s world view of politics is poles apart. ‘Pragmatic’ compulsions are also forcing the Congress to follow a “hands off” policy. In the unlikely event of Centre dismissing Kejriwal regime, Congress would be put in the unviable position of either defending the dethroned person seeking martyrdom or looking the other way when everyone would be saying something for or against the move.

File image of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File image of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. PTI

The Congress is desperately looking for a foothold in Delhi politics and getting back its voters: the Muslims, weaker sections and traders who crossed over to AAP in 2015. The ignominy of getting a “zero” in Delhi and Sheila Dikshit forfeiting her deposit still seems fresh in the minds of those occupying offices at 24 Akbar Road and Rajiv Bhawan, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, New Delhi.

In fact, most Congress heavyweights in Delhi met a similar fate and Congress managed to save its deposit in only eight Assembly seats — Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal, Mustafabad, Seelampur, Badli, Laxmi Nagar, Jangpura and Gandhi Nagar — of 70 seats.

It is an open secret that both Ajay Maken and Dikshit, who do not get along well, exert a lot of influence on Rahul. The young party president is, therefore, overlooking the possibility of a coexistence between a stand on constitutional issues and political Opposition. Rahul is also ignoring that successive party manifestos promised full statehood for Delhi even though ten years of UPA rule (2004 to 2014) saw no movement in that direction.

The masterly inactivity in Delhi however, has its repercussions for the Congress. At the end of the war of attrition, if Kejriwal fails and falters, the BJP is in better position to win the subsequent electoral battle than the Congress. Some third front protagonists such as Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, Pinarayi Vijayan and HD Kumaraswamy are showing more affection for Kejriwal in the guise of Opposition unity.

Any drastic action in Delhi has the potential to provide a better platform to the perceived subjugator and subjugated than a clumsy bystander. The Congress needs to work out its nuanced position rather swiftly.


Updated Date: Jun 18, 2018 08:29 AM

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