Full disclosure: This column invites pieces from people across political parties. The author of this piece is research-in-charge of the Aam Aadmi Party Youth Wing, Maharashtra.
An interesting political development drew all eyes to the national capital on March 5. Sources floated speculations on Twitter, suggesting that the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress had sealed an alliance in Delhi. With discussions on “multiple alliance formulae”, an announcement was expected by noon. Political journalists with years of experience even talked about how alliances are an integral part of politics—both Indian and worldwide—and it seemed like the Congress had swallowed its ego in favour of political advantage.
However, the speculations came to a sudden standstill when Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit gave an interview to ANI where she declared that the Congress, in consultation with party president Rahul Gandhi and the Delhi state leadership, had decided to go it alone in the upcoming general elections as far as Delhi is concerned.
The news broke amidst the chaos of discussions on how the Congress might look for a tie-up with the AAP.
Upon analysing the situation, numerous questions were raised. Why did Congress, upon knowing that it will lose all seven seats in Delhi if it does not ally with the AAP, take such a decision? Is the Congress not aware of its current political stature in Delhi? Is the leadership being misled on the actual ground situation in Delhi? Did the Congress’s ego get in the way? Why is the Congress cutting into AAP votes that will eventually benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party?
The answers might surprise you.
The Congress is definitely aware of its stature in Delhi as well as in the national political discourse. The party knows it will not get a majority on its own to form a government. The Congress has already woken up and smelled the coffee: Rahul Gandhi will not become Prime Minister this year. Then what happened?
First of all, let’s clear one thing up. The Congress is an ambitious lot. The Gandhi family, which directly or indirectly ruled the country for several years, will not easily let go of its hold over the country. The party’s only aim right now seems to be instating Rahul Gandhi as PM—which even they know isn’t possible at least in 2019. The only way it might happen is by trying for the next term.
By suppressing the AAP in the capital, the Congress wants to end one of its potential political opponents before the 2024 election run. By signing a pact now, the Congress feels that the AAP will occupy the Congress’s share of space in the national political scenario. This, as we discussed, is against the pathway for Rahul Gandhi to become PM.
The AAP has done some exceptional work in Delhi: 50 per cent reduction in electricity bills, mohalla clinics, modern government schools under the leadership of deputy CM Manish Sisodia and Atishi, sewage treatment, home delivery of government services, and so on. The party changed the political narrative to basic issues, not indulging in the traditional caste caste-based and religion-based vote divide-and-share politics.
By not allying with the AAP in Delhi, the TMC in West Bengal, the SP-BSP in UP, and Prakash Ambedkar-Asaduddin Owaisi’s Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi in Maharashtra, the Congress is trying to showcase that the only opponent to Narendra Modi, in the long run, is Rahul Gandhi himself. By denying these alliances, the party is trying to project itself as the sole opposition in those states—a completely false narrative. Alliances in these states would boost regional parties which would then stand tall in Rahul Gandhi’s road to the prime ministership. By denying these alliances, the Congress has underestimated the potential of parties like the AAP. This kind of opportunistic behaviour only serves their own political ambition, even as the country is facing a constitutional crisis.
Being the capital, Delhi holds an upper hand in the Indian political scene. Delhi sends seven MPs to Parliament. West Bengal elects 40 MPs, Maharashtra elects 48, and Uttar Pradesh has the highest tally of 80. These states are crucial to obtain a majority in Parliament. The Congress seems to have acknowledged this and is working in that direction, though the current elections seem to hold no importance to it. It’s working towards having one political opponent throughout India—the BJP—for Elections 2024, which is why it’s trying to eliminate parties like the AAP, TMC, SP, BSP and so on. It’s creating a BJP vs Congress battle, not BJP vs Congress vs AAP vs the rest.
And this will undoubtedly help the BJP this year, which is worrying. Especially as the past year has seen attacks on democratic institutions like the CBI, Supreme Court and Election Commission by the Centre.
It’s clear to us that the Congress is cutting into AAP’s votes in order to bring the BJP back to power. Then they can harvest the BJP’s anti-incumbency over the next five years and keep contenders like the AAP away in 2024. They’re putting their own self-interest before the interest of the nation.