A Sharad Pawar Cameo As Divided Congress Debates Tie-Up With AAP

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New Delhi: In frantic attempts to bring the Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) together in Delhi for next month’s national election, Maharashtra politician Sharad Pawar has taken on the role of mediator.

After Sharad Pawar’s intervention, Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit met with colleagues at her home to reconsider a tie-up with AAP – an idea that she has resisted vehemently so far. The leaders later told reporters that they would abide by their bosses’ decision.

The move comes after Sharad Pawar had separate discussions with the Congress and AAP this morning, say sources. The Maharashtra veteran met with Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge first, and then AAP’s Sanjay Singh.

Sharad Pawar had last month hosted a mega opposition meeting that starred Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee.

Sheila Dikshit, a three-time chief minister whose rule ended with AAP’s rise in Delhi, had warned in a letter on Monday to Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi that an alliance with AAP will hurt the Congress in the long run. She also urged the leadership to spell out its stand to avoid confusion among party workers.

While Sheila Dikshit has strongly opposed a tie-up with AAP, a senior Congress leader in charge of Delhi, PC Chacko, made it clear on Tuesday that “Delhi leaders have to follow the Congress’s policy decision to go for alliances with parties opposed to the BJP”.

Rahul Gandhi, said Mr Chacko, would take a decision in a few days. “As far as I know there are senior leaders in Delhi who think that defeating BJP is party’s immediate responsibility; for it we should form alliance with AAP, that’s the thinking of majority of leaders,” Mr Chacko told news agency ANI.

He added: “The policy of our party as decided by the working committee is to go for alliances with parties opposed to the BJP. I hope Delhi leaders will also follow this policy decision of the Congress.”

The Congress had declined Mr Kejriwal’s proposal for an alliance for the April-May national election. Mr Gandhi had said that the Delhi unit of the party was opposed to the idea.

However, after the Pulwama terror attack and its fallout, the party reportedly had fresh discussions over the alliance as the opposition reassessed its strategy to take on the ruling BJP.

An internal survey of the Congress reportedly showed the BJP ahead of both AAP and Congress with 35 per cent of the vote share in the capital. The findings were shared with the Congress president.

“Senior leaders cited the recent survey by the party which showed AAP vote bank to be around 28 per cent and Congress’s 22 per cent while BJP’s 35 per cent and argued that an AAP-Congress alliance will sweep all the seven seats in Delhi,” sources have told NDTV.

PC Chacko met Sheila Dikshit and showed her the results of the survey.

“Chacko then met other leaders of the Delhi Congress unit and everyone has agreed to go by the decision of the party leadership on an alliance with AAP,” sources said.

So far, the Delhi leadership remains cold to an alliance with AAP. Along with Ms Dikshit, three working presidents– Haroon Yusuf, Devender Yadav and Rajesh Lilothia– have also expressed discontent over Mr Chacko’s recent phone survey through Shakti app to gauge party workers’ mood.

Senior party leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad are in touch with Mr Kejriwal and an alliance in Delhi and Haryana is likely, sources told NDTV.

Mr Kejriwal had been insistent on an alliance with the Congress, arguing that if the two parties contest Lok Sabha polls separately, it would help the BJP by dividing the votes against it.

After the Congress’s no, Mr Kejriwal has been attacking the party, accusing it of an “unholy” alliance with the BJP. The AAP has even announced candidates for six out of seven Delhi Lok Sabha constituencies.

The opponents of the alliance in the Congress believe that the move will be “suicidal” as the party has to face the Delhi assembly polls early next year and its main rival will be the ruling AAP.

Delhi votes for its seven Lok Sabha seats on May 12. The results will be declared with the rest of the country on May 23.

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