Reported By: Pallavi Ghosh
Last Updated: September 17, 2023, 18:26 IST
Sonia Gandhi, in a clear reference to the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc on Day One of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet in Hyderabad, said that for the sake of victory against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2024, it was important to contest in a united manner.
Gandhi knows the power of an alliance. It was the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which had unseated in 2009 what was then considered the invincible National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
But the times were different then.
The Congress was the leader, it could call the shots and not be overpowered by growing ambitions of other parties. Regional parties such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) were happy to work under the Congress.
The times have changed and ambitions have grown. The biggest worry is the growing power of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Despite the voices of protest against the alliance with the AAP and support to it over the Delhi bill, the central leadership reached out to the AAP and stood by it. Those against any such an alliance had, with a sense of resignation, accepted this decision. However, this acceptance couldn’t be checked at the CWC meeting.
AAP: THE BIGGEST WORRY
Hyderabad was chosen as the Congress is convinced it can defeat the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and its national ambition. But the CWC, its assertion of the Congress ambition, along with INDIA alliance commitment, could not control the voice of dissent.
Sources say some leaders of Punjab and Delhi raised the issue, saying the AAP cannot be trusted. Ajay Maken, who has strongly advocated against any alliance with the AAP, and Punjab Congress assembly leader Pratap Bajwa asked: “If AAP can be trusted, why is it campaigning in states where there is a straight BJP vs Congress fight? Doesn’t this help the BJP?”
This is in regard to recent campaigns by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan. The fact is that both in Delhi and Punjab, the Congress has been harmed by AAP, so the state leaders are wary of the party.
Sources say Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge accepted their concerns. But he also assured them that any further decision would be taken only after consulting the state unit. This is important as the Bhopal meeting will finalise seat-sharing and the Congress doesn’t want to cede any space to the AAP in these areas.
Aligning individual interest with unity talk will be a challenge.