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Why Congress has nothing to lose in an alliance with AAP in north India

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 23 July 2018, 23:24 IST

After the extended Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Sunday, the media put up a question to the Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on a possible alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Amarinder came out saying that the alliances will have to happen at the national level. “This is a decision to be taken at the national level. The alliances will be dependent on where the central leadership takes us. And wherever it takes us, we will go,” he reportedly said.

Although it is a long way for the possibility such an alliance to come into existence but Amarinder and for that matter the Congress have nothing to lose as far as Punjab and to some extent Haryana are concerned. The Congress is likely to benefit if this alliance becomes a reality. These are the two states in the north where AAP has a presence apart from Delhi.

One can start from taking stock of the political scenario in Punjab. AAP had come up with a surprising performance in the face of 'Modi wave' of 2014 by romping home on four of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the offing in the state. It went on to emerge as a political force that was once threatening to form the government in this state in the Assembly polls held in 2017. But it was reduced to a distant second place by the resurgent Congress led by Amarinder. It is well known that the 2017 Congress victory in Punjab was out and out an Amarinder show with the central leadership having very little to do with it.

But AAP's problems had started simultaneously along with its ascent. Of the four Lok Sabha MPs, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, Harinder Singh Khalsa, Bhagwant Mann and Sadhu Singh, the first two were suspended by the party after the party witnessed a split when leaders like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav moved out. Both these leaders continue to be the members of the lower house of the parliament as AAP's suspended members. They is no chance of AAP fielding them again in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Of the remaining two Sadhu Singh has remained in political oblivion.

Bhagwant Mann had emerged as the key player for the party in the assembly polls drawing maximum crowds but his popularity also saw a down slide after the polls, particularly with allegations of high alcohol consumption against him being played up regularly by his political opponents. He had quit his post as AAP's Punjab chief when Delhi Chief Minister and AAP's national convener Arvind Kejriwal apologised to Bikram Majithia.

The party has been quiet over the acceptance of his resignation. There have been speculations about his continuing in AAP. But at the same time he continues to be the party's voice in the parliament and his speeches going viral.

One also needs to look at AAP in the post 2017 Assembly poll scenario. The party has continued to go down the hill. Looking at its present scene one cannot believe that this was a party that was making waves ahead of the Assembly polls threatening to walk away with the victory crown with both the traditional power houses –Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Congress being cornered. Continuous squabbling among its over-ambitious leaders continue to present an embarrassing face of the party before the public. No one has been able to fill the party's top slot for long and there is a clear lack of co-ordination between the national and state leaderships of the party.

Electorally speaking, the dismal state of affairs in AAP saw a total shift of its voter base towards the Congress in both the Gurdaspur parliamentary by-poll and the recent Shahkot Assembly by-poll. This clearly shows that the people who saw AAP as an alternative to the Congress in the fight against the SAD-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine are moving back to the Congress. AAP will have to come up with an elaborate blueprint if this is to be stopped.

Meanwhile AAP's embarrassments continue. A couple of days back a fresh feud reportedly erupted in the party ranks, this time between its co-president Dr Balbir Singh and the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira. Monday morning saw two of its MLAs making headlines for being detained and deported from Canada.

In such a scenario, an alliance between Congress and AAP would simply mean the former having an upper hand and the grand old party would not mind leaving two to three seats for AAP to contest in the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress prospects at this point of time remain bolstered, despite all the shortcomings, by the fact that the public anger against the Akali-BJP regime is yet to die down completely.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Haryana, AAP is yet to make effective inroads in the heartland. The party can have some impact in the areas of the National Capital Region (NCR) around Delhi where its workers are trying to hard sell the Delhi model of governance and may capitalize on some seats. Here too AAP will have to play the second fiddle to the Congress.

Although AAP has started strengthening its organization at the grass roots but it will take a lot of time for the party to get a firm footing on the turf of this politically high volatile state. According to AAP's Haryana in-charge Navin Jaihind the party has decided to open its offices in every state assembly constituency. The party is also engaged in a 'Hath Jodo' outreach campaign in the state.

First published: 23 July 2018, 23:24 IST