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Why AAP Believes Congress Has 'Nearly Said No' to an Alliance in Delhi

File photo of Delhi CM  Arvind Kejriwal.

File photo of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.

The Congress has 'more or less' ruled out an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, a day after he had participated in a meeting with opposition leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

New Delhi: Delhi chief minister and AAP president Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday said that the Congress has “nearly said no” to an alliance with Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. But the reasons, leaders of both the parties said, weren’t just limited to compulsions of the state but also a long-term, and nearly existential threat from AAP.

Kejriwal argued, "We are very worried about the nation, so we are keen (on an alliance). The Congress has almost said no to an alliance." After the Supreme Court split verdict that effectively made the Delhi government’s powers to transfer its bureaucrats, a distant dream, Kejriwal added that while they were ready to fight “on their own” in Delhi, they were still “keen on an alliance” in “national interest”.

AAP has been campaigning in the capital’s seven seats for the past three months. But while having nearly all of the legislators in the Assembly offer them advantages while campaigning, party leaders admit that their strength varies from seat-to-seat. “At the end of the day, AAP and Congress will cut each other’s votes and benefit the BJP,” said a senior leader.

But while the Congress has long-since denied any possibility of a tie-up with AAP, a member of the AAP Political Affairs Committee (it’s highest decision making body) said, “Every party has issues at the ground level when it comes to an alliance. The leaders at the state level will never want an alliance because their chances of getting a ticket reduces.”

The leader added that the Congress’s refusal to not get into an alliance stemmed from the very nature of AAP itself. “AAP has more in common with the Congress, than it does with the BJP or, say, the TMC. It doesn’t have a restricted electorate. Like the Congress, it has the potential of becoming a national party and today we’re here in Delhi. We had given them stiff competition in Punjab. Tomorrow, we can spread to Congress states – like Rajasthan and Haryana.”

The Congress countered that such an argument was “simplistic”, but had a grain of truth to it. A senior AICC leader explained, “It is not enough to say that we are similar. The Congress has a grand history, which no other party in the country has. But at the end of the day, AAP and Congress are going for the same votes. The anti-BJP space will get diluted.”

Meanwhile, Kejriwal was at a meeting at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar's home to prepare a united strategy for the national election due by May, which also featured Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi.

After the meeting on Wednesday, the Congress chief had said that they would go for it alone in both Bengal and Delhi. "We will compete with each other as well," said Rahul Gandhi.

Sources maintained that opposition leaders had noted the lack of an alliance in Delhi and argued that it could harm the unity agenda that was being set.

Delhi has seven Lok Sabha seats, all of which were won by the BJP in the 2014 national elections. But in the subsequent assembly election, AAP swept the 2015 elections, while the Congress was reduced to no seats in the house.