The Opposition’s INDIA bloc suffered yet another blow on Thursday when the Aam Aadmi Party unilaterally declared candidates for three Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam.
The names for Dibrugarh, Guwahati and Sonetpur constituencies were announced by AAP MP Sandeep Pathak at a press conference.
“As you all know, Lok Sabha elections are very close. There are just a few months left. We all have to work very hard and a lot of work is pending. That is why AAP is declaring three candidates from Assam – Manoj Dhanohar from Dibrugarh constituency, Bhaben Chowdhury from Guwahati and Rishi Raj from Sonetpur constituency. We will now begin our preparations in these constituencies with all our strength,” he said.
“I have faith and hope that the INDIA bloc will also give these three seats to the AAP,” he added.
However, in a telling remark on the health of the seat-sharing talks, Pathak said: “Talks have been going on within the INDIA bloc for months. We are tired of talking. We have to fight elections. We have to fight not for the sake of fighting, but to win. There is no time. We are fully with the alliance and I hope that it will give the three seats that we have announced to AAP.”
The AAP has been pitching to expedite talks with the Congress. The latter, however, is busy with Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Naya Yatra’. Pathak indicated that as far as the AAP is concerned, the three Assam seats are final and expressed hope that the alliance would accept it.
“We have been talking for months within the alliance. All the important states were on the table and discussed in detail. However, there has been no outcome. When discussions are headed towards no outcome, at some point, you have to decide. However, I am confident that the INDIA bloc will accept this,” he said, adding that the AAP is a “mature” and “sensible” partner in the alliance.
“Even though it’s for Congress and INDIA to decide… I can only say that if you have to win elections, time is of critical importance. You can’t waste time. While there is time, all seat-sharing in states must be finalised while there is still time.”
Asked about candidates for the seven Lok Sabha in Delhi, where the AAP’s in power, Pathak said talks are going on and expressed hope that there would be an outcome soon. There is a possibility that the AAP may declare candidates for Delhi, leaving one or few more seats for the Congress.
Earlier, the AAP had similarly declared its MLA Chaitar Vasava from Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat. Bharuch is an important seat for the Congress as its late leader from Gujarat Ahmed Patel had fought from here. However, Pathak pointed out that this was the case way back in 1984 and that Patel’s daughter has been living in Delhi.
The AAP and the Congress have had two rounds of seat-sharing talks in Delhi. Apart from that, AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal also met Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi mid-January this year. That meeting was an important confidence-building exercise as, despite Kejriwal’s open request for a meeting, Gandhi had not given any time for a one-on-one between the two.
Meanwhile, the Congress was conspicuous by its absence in the opposition protest at Jantar Mantar by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to uphold ‘cooperative federalism’. Incidentally, Kejriwal and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann participated in these protests.
“This is basically an issue of all non-BJP parties. How the states run by them are being discriminated against, how they are being denied their legitimate dues and how the governors are being misused by the ruling party at the Centre. So, it is a question of Centre-State relations, which is a basic feature of our constitutional federalism. That is being violated. This is a protest against that,” said CPM general secretary and former MP Sitaram Yechury.
When the Congress held a protest at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday, it did not invite opposition leaders, including the AAP and the Left. And it skipped the protests by the Left despite an invitation.
“You have to ask the Congress party (why it didn’t attend the protests). Of course, they were invited. All the members of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala were invited. The Leader of the Opposition in Kerala was met by the CM and was personally invited. But they chose what they chose so it is for them to answer,” Yechury, who was also at Jantar Mantar, said.
National leaders of the Congress also gave the Left protests a miss. “Mr Kharge was invited personally. It (the invitation) was delivered to him,” Yechury clarified.
Asked if another political front, this time excluding the Congress was coming up, Yechury said: “No, no, no, there is nothing of the sort here. We are all part of INDIA, everybody here is a part of INDIA. But why the Congress has kept out is for them to answer.”