No word on Congress-AAP alliance in Delhi as rumours of Sheila Dikshit's resignation do the rounds

An alliance will no doubt upset Sheila Dikshit, the former three-time chief minister, whose government Kejriwal built the anti-incumbency wave.

Pallavi Rebbapragada March 27, 2019 17:21:12 IST
No word on Congress-AAP alliance in Delhi as rumours of Sheila Dikshit's resignation do the rounds
  • Four former Delhi Congress chiefs are said to be in favour of alliance

  • Sheila Dikshit and three working presidents of Delhi Congress are against it

  • AAP is still seeking an alliance to stay relevant in national politics

The Congress was in power when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was born as an anti-corruption movement. Now, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's AAP is seeking an alliance with the Congress in order to increase AAP’s significance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

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. Since the Congress’ relevance in the national capital’s politics is an all-time low, this could be a desperate survival strategy. However, with the lack of a powerful successor, the party might have to play second fiddle to Kejriwal in the long run.

No word on CongressAAP alliance in Delhi as rumours of Sheila Dikshits resignation do the rounds

File image of Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit. PTI

An alliance will no doubt upset Dikshit, the former three-time Delhi chief minister, against whose government Kejriwal built the anti-incumbency wave. Dikshit has been critical of Kejriwal’s government since the inception of AAP, and recently, of the AAP demand for statehood. Today, in a press conference, AAP’s cabinet minister Gopal Rai asked why Dikshit is opposed to their demand for statehood when she was making the exact same demand back in 2013, and raised the same issue of multiple agencies interfering in the execution of governance work in the capital, which AAP is now talking about. Given the friction between her and AAP leaders, speculation of her resignation if an alliance is forged is also doing the rounds within the Delhi Congress Unit, but there is no official word yet on either that or the alliance.

Sources within the DPCC suggest the party is asking for a 3-3-1 seat share ratio where both parties get an equal number of seats while AAP is willing to offer 5:2.

AAP has decided to field Atishi Marlena, former adviser to the deputy chief minister, from East Delhi; Gugan Singh Ranga from North West Delhi; political affairs committee member Raghav Chadha from South Delhi; Pankaj Gupta from Chandni Chowk; Dilip Pandey from North East Delhi; and Brijesh Goyal from New Delhi. Anticipating a go-ahead from the Congress towards the alliance, the West Delhi seat was left open for the Congress until Sunday. That’s when AAP declared its last candidate Balbir Singh Jakhar in Delhi for the Lok Sabha polls. Aside from the West Delhi Seat, AAP may be willing to offer Pankaj Gupta’s Chandni Chowk seat. Pankaj Gupta, National Secretary of the Party, is a reliable, stable leader whose ego won’t take a beating if the seat is giving away to a Congress candidate.

The Chandni Chowk seat has traditionally been a Congress domain, except in 1977 when Sikandar Bakht won on a Janata Party ticket, when Tara Chand Khandelwal of BJP in won in 1991 and Vijay Goel won by slim margins in 1998 and 1999. After the delimitation of 2008, the constituency has grown to include congested market stretch of Sadar Bazar, the residential areas of Civil lines and the slums of Jahangirpuri. Densely packed areas such as Adarsh Nagar, Model Town, Shalimar Bagh, Wazirpur, Shakur Basti, Ballimaran are part of Chandni Chowk with 14.35 lakh voters. The constituency has nearly 35 percent Bania and Punjabi voters, around 20 percent Muslim voters, close to 26 percent Scheduled Caste, and a little less than 10 percent Brahmin voters, making it a culturally complex seat to crack for any party. Given the plurality and concentration of the vote here, the seat’s voting pattern often reflects the mood of the national capital. AAP’s decision to give the seat to the grand old party would be a safe move, but could also be dubbed as its own uncertainty at being able to win over Delhi’s voters in the national election the are beyond local, municipal concerns.

From North East Delhi, which is Delhi’s purvanchali-dominated heartland, BJP’s Manoj Tiwari’s swept the 2014 polls with a margin of 144,084 votes. While the BJP has been making efforts to woo Delhi’s purvanchali voter with rallies, AAP has increased its footwork among the migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Dilip Pandey, AAP’s candidate from the area has an area of over 2,000 volunteers on ground in nearly 40 wards, who are making inroads into issues of electricity, water, unemployment. He spearheaded the campaign ‘Uttar Bharatiya Swabhiman Yatra’ (North Indian Self Respect March) in October 2018 on the rising incidents of violence against Hindi speaking migrants in Gujrat. The Congress neither has a strong candidate in the area to match up to Pandey’s cadres or Tiwari’s popularity, so it is less likely that AAP will give up on this seat.

AAP spokesperson Atishi Marlena, who rose up in the shadows of Manish Sisodia’s efforts on education reform, is contesting from East Delhi. Sisodia was AAP’s East Delhi prabhari and Atishi is hoping to cash in on the compounded interests of his rapport with East Delhi locals. Sandeep Dikshit of the Congress has already said he will not contest from East Delhi. He won from this seat in 2004 and 2009 and lost to BJP’s Mahesh Giri in 2014. The son of the former chief minister was made the AICC Secretary last year and his decision to not contest from the seat is more of an admission of the party’s lack of effort and interest in the constituency.

Gugan Singh Ranga from North West Delhi is the man who helped Kejriwal ace Bawana bypolls of 2017. He switched over from BJP to AAP in July 2017, just ahead of the bypolls. Gugan Singh’s entry into AAP benefited it because he brought in the Opposition’s political strategies in the area. Singh was a prominent Dalit face of the saffron party. Interestingly, Singh lost to AAP’s Ved Parkash from Bawana in 2015 and Parkash has now defected to the BJP. The absence of the Congress from this tussle makes it unlikely for it to be field a candidate from here.

Raghav Chadha, AAP’s candidate from South Delhi had a 34 percent vote base in the 2017 MCD elections which AAP lost. Mathematically, this is a strong seat for the AAP. Similarly, Brajesh Goyal from the New Delhi constituency helped draft AAP’s trade manifesto and embodies the party’s reach within the trader community.

In the 2015 elections, when AAP won 67 seats, Congress failed to score a single seat. But the irony is that AAP is still seeking an alliance to stay relevant in national politics amid friction between top leaders on both sides.

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