Former Delhi Chief Minister and the in-charge of the Delhi state unit of the Congress Party, Sheila Dikshit, announced today that there would be no alliance between her party and the Arvind Kejriwal led AAP. With this, the AAP story is effectively over. The Congress Party has pulled the plug on this experiment by its own civil society.
According to reports, the reason this decision was taken by the Congress at a time when the grand old party faces its second consecutive defeat in the general elections, is because they find the Kejriwal led party to be too unreliable. The pattern that led to this decision demonstrates exactly that. Kejriwal who won 67 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats in a three-cornered fight four years ago, was seen begging the Congress Party for an alliance. Thereafter, it is believed that opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar advised Rahul Gandhi to ally with Kejriwal, a suggestion that Rahul reluctantly accepted. But within hours of Rahul having given his party the go-ahead for an alliance, Kejriwal announced candidates for 6 of the 7 Lok Sabha constituencies of Delhi. This must have been extremely humiliating for the Congress, which repaid the favour by asking AAP to come to the table and sending it back home empty-handed.
The mystery here is why Kejriwal, who was bending over backwards begging the Congress for an alliance, pulled the rug from under their feet the moment they agreed. Perhaps he had had enough of the Congress making him wait, much like Mayawati. Perhaps he realized that there is hardly any time, and he miscalculated, thinking that such a move would shake the Congress out of its complacency. Or perhaps he went all Trump on the Congress, hoping that such a pressure tactic would force their hands into allotting the AAP some seats in Punjab and Haryana as well, another alliance he was desperately seeking. Whatever it was, it backfired royally.
AAP being unreliable to the Congress is an age old story. It began during the time of the Indian Against Corruption movement itself when the Kejriwal led faction decided to enter politics. One of the interesting traits of the Kejriwal faction was that it consisted of members from the civil society and the so-called intelligentsia who had generally leaned towards the Congress. Kejriwal was believed to have been in the running for a seat on the coveted NAC, Sonia Gandhi’s super cabinet according to the Congress Party itself. Yogendra Yadav had served on the NAC, and had also been Rahul Gandhi’s own advisor. Prashant Bhushan is now an advisor of the Congress. Having these people at the helm of the party that was being considered an alternative to a corrupt political class, suited the Congress. Instead of the BJP being the sole beneficiary of the anti-Congress anger, a substantial chunk of votes could go to the AAP.
The first major miscalculation of the Congress Party was to lend support to the AAP when Delhi elected a hung assembly months before the 2014 general elections. The AAP still had a long rope with the public, and managed to get away with a sham survey they conducted asking the people of Delhi whether they should take outside support from the Congress Party. The Congress believed that an effective, corruption free, high on publicity government in the run-up to the 2014 general elections would provide a credible alternative to a rising BJP. And therefore, apart from the outside support, the party’s friends in the media went on a PR blitzkrieg about the new government in Delhi. Forty nine days later when Kejriwal resigned, he had managed to make everyone look bad. The Congress was the same corrupt party who would not let the Lokpal Bill go through, and Kejriwal came out looking like any other power-hungry politician who could not resist getting in on the anti-Congress sentiment right ahead of the 2014 general elections.
In 2015, things were still too fresh for both sides to emerge from the closet. The AAP had managed to remain more or less unscathed in the perception battle, and the Congress was going through its worst phase ever. Sharing the stage with a “corrupt Congress” would have been suicidal for AAP, so the question of an alliance did not even arise. Instead, a three-cornered Delhi assembly election was rendered into a two-cornered fight, with the Congress virtually contesting only to let the records show. The AAP won a landslide. However, despite the Congress giving them a lease of life for the second time, the AAP did not make life easier for the Congress. In the following months, the anti-corruption halo began to fade, and the image of being a credible alternative to the BJP faded simultaneously. Though AAP lost the perception battle, Congress was the biggest loser since Prime Minister Modi took on the mantle of being the undisputed crusader against corruption. Moreover, as the Punjab election of 2017 approached, AAP began giving Congress the jitters of their lifetime. This was the only election after years where the Congress stood a chance, and the AAP was in no mood to pay back the Delhi favour. Had it not been for certain critical miscalculations on the part of AAP like aligning openly with Khalistanis, Punjab would have been anyone’s game.
Therefore after giving the AAP two lifelines and getting stabbed in the back constantly, one cannot blame the Congress for not giving the party a third lifeline, even if it means losing all 7 seats in Delhi. Even when Rahul Gandhi reluctantly agreed, Kejriwal announced 6 candidates within hours, and the Congress knew it has mis-stepped again. It knew that this experiment of its own civil society, AAP, had gone rogue. It knew it had to pull the plug. Enough was enough. And with the party ending up destroying its Punjab unit and being a non-starter in other states outside Delhi, this will be the final nail in the coffin. If you don’t believe it, look at how livid they are. These are hopeless cries of a man who knows it’s all over.
At a time when the whole country wants to defeat Modi- Shah duo, Cong is helping BJP by splitting anti-BJP vote. Rumours r that Cong has some secret understanding wid BJP. Delhi is ready to fight against Cong-BJP alliance. People will defeat this unholy alliance. https://t.co/JUsYMjxCxy
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 5, 2019