Alliance talks between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi were once again in the spotlight on Monday after Congress president Rahul Gandhi said “our doors are still open" even as Delhi chief minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal questioned the party’s seriousness on forming an alliance.
The development comes a week before the last date for filing of nominations for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. The state goes to polls on 12 May and candidates have to file their nomination papers by 23 April. Currently, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds all seven seats.
Gandhi, in his first official remarks on an alliance, tweeted, “An alliance between the Congress & AAP in Delhi would mean the rout of the BJP. The Congress is willing to give 4 Delhi seats to the AAP to ensure this. But, Mr Kejriwal has done yet another U turn! Our doors are still open, but the clock is running out."
Gandhi’s intervention comes amid a division in the Congress party on such an alliance even as senior AAP leaders have spoken in favour of it. After months of speculation, the two parties reportedly failed to reach an understanding over the number of seats in Delhi and extending the alliance to neighbouring Haryana and Punjab.
Responding to Gandhi’s tweet, Kejriwal questioned the Congress’ seriousness on an alliance.
“Which U turn? Talks were still on. Your tweet shows that an alliance is just for show and not something you want. It is sad that you are making such statements. Today it is important to save the country from the threat of Modi-Shah. It is sad that you are cutting votes against Modi in Uttar Pradesh and other states," Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.
The AAP is keen on an alliance not just in Delhi but also in Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh and Goa. Together they account for 33 Lok Sabha seats, where the Congress is in a direct fight with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The Congress has held a series of meetings between the Delhi state unit and the central unit over the alliance. Last month, Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit ruled out an alliance even as senior leaders including AICC general secretary in-charge of Delhi Congress P.C. Chacko spoke out in its favour.
Senior leaders in the AAP say their party is still open to an alliance, if the Congress was serious to hold talks.
“His tweet is very surprising. The opposition has been working to get together to defeat the BJP. Congress for the last three months has only been making statements and wasting time. We brought that down to 18 seats in Delhi, Haryana and Chandigarh but they are not interested. If you are serious about defeating BJP, the AAP is still interested in defeating the BJP in 18 seats," AAP Delhi convener and cabinet minister Gopal Rai said.
AAP is suggesting alliance on 18 seats beyond Delhi. Let us come together in Delhi first. Rahulji said our doors are open, it should be done...Whatever decision is reached in one state cannot be replicated in the same way in other states," Chacko told ANI.
Alliance talks began after senior opposition leaders including West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had to bring the arch-rivals of Delhi together. The two parties last came together in 2013 after the Congress offered outside support to AAP to form a government in Delhi. However, the government lasted only 49 days.