By A Special Correspondent
The Congress-AAP parleys for an alliance have finally been called off and the Congress is likely to announce candidates for all seven Delhi seats today. Both parties are accusing each other of sabotaging the talks with their inflexible attitude. P C Chacko, the Congress leader who was deputed by Rahul Gandhi to take things forward with the AAP leadership is saying that despite Rahul’s go-ahead, Kejriwal was the one who jinxed the efforts by not agreeing to take states one by one and insisting on a package that included Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal. AAP, on the other hand, has been saying that Rahul Gandhi wants to help the BJP win and that is why he is not being flexible.
But the reasons for the breakdown must be clear to anyone who knows the respective position of both the parties in the states under consideration. While AAP is strong in Delhi and relatively well placed in Haryana, it has little clout in Himachal and its Punjab unit is in shambles. The Congress, on the other hand, is very strong in Punjab, somewhat strong in Himachal and Haryana but weak in Delhi. While AAP was not willing to give much leeway to the Congress in Delhi, the Congress was, in turn, not willing to entertain AAP’s claims in Punjab.
AAP was adamant that with four seats from Punjab in the outgoing Lok Sabha, it deserved to have a similar number this time if an alliance was forged. But the Congress has its eyes on at least 12 out of the total 13 seats in the state and was not willing to give away seats it could win to a party whose state unit is marred by infighting and is likely to get a much-reduced vote share. It did not want to lose winnable seats just to have an alliance with AAP.
The roles are reversed in Delhi. The Congress has no seats, neither in the Lok Sabha nor in the state assembly, from Delhi. It had 15.10% vote share in the 2014 general elections but it fell to an abysmal 9.7% in the 2015 assembly elections. Since then, the party’s Delhi unit has not done anything to arouse confidence and there is no buzz around the Congress in Delhi. Hence, the AAP wants to bargain its position of strength in Delhi to wrangle seats in Punjab and the other states.
But one thing is clear. If the Congress and the AAP had allied in Delhi, they could have snatched at least 4/5 seats from the BJP on the strength of their combined voter shares and AAP’s clout in the state. The Congress could have used this to offer AAP in Punjab only as many seats as it gave it in Delhi. The other states were not a huge problem and something could have been worked out through negotiations. But by not choosing to ally, both the parties have made it easy for the BJP to retain all the 7 seats in Delhi and be in a very comfortable position in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.