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Though both sides played down the speculation, it failed to quell talk in political circles that the parties, bitter foes in the past, may consider coming together to humble common foe BJP, which holds all seven Lok Sabha seats.
There was even talk of a possible pact extending to states like Punjab.
Repartee between Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken and AAP’s national spokesperson Dilip Pandey set off the heated discussions.
While Maken was dismissive of a “so called” offer, AAP held that “discussions have happened at some level on one seat” while suggesting talks were being pursued at higher levels in the Congress.
On Friday morning Maken took to Twitter to say, “On ‘so called’ offer of AAP to Congress for three seats look at my reply to Kejriwal! When the people of Delhi are continuously rejecting Kejriwal government, why should we come to their rescue?” He said it was Kejriwal with team Anna, assisted by RSS, that helped the rise of BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
On “so called” offer of AAP to Congress for 3 seats,look at my reply to Kejriwal! When the people of Delhi are con… https://t.co/gmLb9AsH19
— Ajay Maken (@ajaymaken) 1527840376000
[email protected] जी! कांग्रेस के कुछ वरिष्ठ नेता ‘आम आदमी पार्टी’ के संपर्क में हैं, और वे हरियाणा, दिल्ली और पंजाब में… https://t.co/jSNYz8tDSq
— Dilip K. Pandey (@dilipkpandey) 1527841914000
Significantly, Kejriwal had said on Twitter that people are missing an “educated prime minister” like Manmohan Singh. Before that Kejriwal attended the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, an event billed as an Opposition show.
Congress sources said discussions have been on with regard to three seats even as AAP functionaries chose to remain more ambiguous on who made the first move while speaking of the possibilities of a bargain extending to other states like Punjab as well.
In another development, AAP appointed five functionaries as in-charge of five LS seats in Delhi but did not announce names for West and New Delhi searts.
This prompted leader of opposition Vijender Gupta to say that “the two seats have been left for Congress.” Sources in AAP said meetings have taken place between senior functionaries of the two parties.
AAP — once referred to by former CM Shiela Dikshit as “monsoon pests” — had ended Congress’s 15-year dominance in the city. Delhi Congress leaders are averse to the party, and there is a view that associating with AAP will repel voters disillusioned with CM Arvind Kejriwal and harm Congress’s prospects.
But despite Congress’s antagonism towards AAP, there is not much evidence of a significant revival in its fortunes, though its vote share has begun to rise in assembly bypolls. In fact, an alliance with AAP could boost Maken’s prospects in the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat that he could contest. AAP has also been facing an erosion in influence since its 2015 landslide win in Delhi. The result in the recent Shahkot assembly poll in Punjab shows a dwindling trend in a state where it was once seen as a strong contender.
Given the view of the Congress leadership that halting BJP is the main political objective, and its decision to cede pole position to JD(S) in Karnataka despite having greater numbers, a change in Delhi’s political landscape cannot be ruled out. However, there do remain daunting obstacles as Congress and Maken have repeatedly attacked AAP for underperforming and on graft charges.
Claiming that “AAP’s support base has been lately eroded”, Maken wondered why Congress should come to its rescue.
In a response to Maken, Dilip Pandey claimed some senior Congress functionaries are in touch with AAP for an alliance and support in Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi and they are demanding only one seat in Delhi. Pandey’s tweet seems to reflect AAP’s attempt to leverage a deal, in the light of perceived shifts in Congress thinking.