New Delhi: Hours after media reported that the Congress was going to rally behind the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) against the Centre’s ordinance on transfers and postings of officers in Delhi, the grand old party clarified that it will first consult its state units and other like-minded parties before arriving at a decision.
The source-based story was refuted soon after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav met Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on Monday. He also called on Delhi chief minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal on Monday and assured him of his support on the ordinance issue.
Nitish Kumar is on a mission – to bring all opposition parties on one platform against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But there are some visible hurdles.
The Congress and the AAP don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. The bitter rivalry escalated during the by-elections to the Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat. The Congress expected the AAP to withdraw from the contest on humanitarian grounds given that the grand old party had named Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, the wife of late Santokh Singh Choudhary who died of a heart attack on January 14 during Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Punjab. While Kejriwal was said to have been in favour of not contesting the by-elections, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann insisted on fighting the by-polls. The AAP won the seat that the Congress held for over two decades.
Prior to the Jalandhar contest, Kharge had called Kejriwal and assured him of his party’s support on the CBI summons to him in the Delhi excise policy case. And when senior leader Ajay Maken hailed the CBI’s move, the Congress distanced itself from his remarks. On Tuesday, Maken dropped clear hints that Congress will not back the AAP on the ordinance issue.
There is a huge trust deficit between Congress and the AAP and the two parties compete in the same political space. It has been seen that the AAP cuts into the Congress vote wherever it contests the elections. Take, for example, Delhi, Punjab and Gujarat.
Besides, the Congress considers Kejriwal the main reason for its electoral decline, arguing that the Anna Hazare movement, helmed by him, was launched with the sole purpose of ousting it from power at the Centre.
Hence, it will be a very tough task for Nitish Kumar to bring these two warring parties on the same platform. After its emphatic victory in Karnataka, the Congress is upbeat and unlikely to accept the diktats of the opposition parties. It would be keen to lead any such coalition and be the fulcrum of the opposition unity.
This was Nitish Kumar’s second meeting with Kharge and Gandhi. After his first interaction, the Bihar chief minister had said that they would meet after the Karnataka elections.
The other stumbling blocks in his efforts are to get on board Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Both are vehemently opposed to doing any business with the Congress.
It seems Nitish Kumar has an axe to grind against the BJP and he wants to see the exit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at any cost. For that, he needs to ensure there is a one-to-one fight on the majority of seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
So far, he has not displayed any national ambitions but could take a plunge once he gets everyone on board and ensures that there is no divide in the opposition vote.
Indeed, an arduous task.