During the debate on the GNCDT Amendment Bill, 2023, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had taken potshots at both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for coming together to oppose the bill and being part of the INDIA bloc.
Targeting the Congress, Shah had said: “After this bill is passed, they (AAP) will walk out of the alliance with you and the Congress is opposing the Delhi Services Bill as it has to save its ‘gathbandhan’.”
As far as AAP was concerned, the minister had said: “AAP was born out of opposing the Congress, AAP attacked the Congress fiercely and ensured the formation of its own government and today, to gain unrightful power, they are taking the support of the Congress.”
Within 10 days of the Bill being passed by Parliament, the fragile peace between the Congress and AAP is already under threat.
Following Congress’s declaration of opposition to the Bill, AAP had asked its spokespersons to not aggressively target the Grand Old Party. It must be remembered, for instance, the party’s response to Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit’s stream of remarks — which are a sharp deviation from his own party line — has been either dismissive or soft.
However, in a break from that, AAP leaders on Wednesday reacted sharply after two Congress leaders — Alka Lamba and state in-charge Anil Chaudhary — issued statements to the effect that the party will prepare to contest all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.
On another day, AAP may not have taken these statements seriously. However, Lamba and Chaudhary were speaking after a crucial meeting of Delhi Congress leaders, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and MP Rahul Gandhi. Kharge tweeted: “In view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, there was a brainstorming with the Delhi Congress leaders. Renewal of INC is our priority for which participation of all leaders and workers is necessary. We had made Delhi prosperous and happy (khush-haal). Our struggle for the people of Delhi will continue.”
Speaking to News18, state vice-president and Chief Whip of Delhi Assembly Dilip Pande said: “We got to know from media sources that Congress is not agreeing for any alliance in the upcoming elections in Delhi. If that is the case, there is no point in being part of the INDIA alliance. Obviously the party’s decision is going to come but the leadership of the party will decide whether they are going to attend the upcoming meeting of the INDIA alliance or not.” AAP spokesperson Priyanka Kakkar echoed Pande’s statement a few minutes later.
The third meeting of the INDIA parties is scheduled to be held in Maharashtra at the end of this month. With the AAP signaling that it means business and threatening to boycott the next meeting, Congress went into fire-fighting mode. AICC’s Delhi in-charge Deepak Barbaria refuted Lamba’s statement, saying “there were no discussions regarding elections or alliances in the meeting”.
Burying the hatchet, AAP minister and spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said, “I think the Congress leadership has clarified that the statement of the state spokesperson is not an authorised statement of the party and I think the matter ends there.”
Clarifying further, he said: “I don’t think that matter still remains. The matter started with the Congress spokesperson and ends with the official statement of the party.”
Asked whether AAP was hopeful of a constructive or productive alliance with the Congress in Delhi and elsewhere, Bhardwaj said: “We are very hopeful when all opposition parties this time will represent the country and India and BJP’s government will not come to power in 2024.”
Meanwhile, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, along with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, is all set to kick off the party’s campaign in election-bound Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh on August 19 and 20 — states where the Congress is in a direct bipolar fight with the BJP. AAP Rajya Sabha MP and national organisation in-charge Sandeep Pathak has already said the party will contest on all seats as of now and will revise its strategy once talks on seat sharing among INDIA parties are finalised.
Kejriwal has shot off ‘thank you’ notes to all leaders who supported the party on the GNCDT Amendment Bill, including three to the Congress leaders alone — Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Mamnohan Singh who came in a wheelchair to cast his vote.
However, the litmus test for the bitter rivals would be when the hard talk over seat sharing happens. In 2019, talks between the two on seat sharing failed with AAP setting seat sharing in Haryana as a pre-condition for Delhi to which Congress did not agree. In Delhi also, neither could agree on the many formulas — 3 (Congress):3 (AAP):1 (Independent) or 4 (AAP):3 (Congress) or 5 (AAP):2 (Congress).