A statement by a Congress leader that the party has asked its leaders to prepare for a contest in all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi next year has raised a row with the Aam Aadmi Party, a member of the newly formed opposition bloc INDIA.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and party MP Rahul Gandhi held a three-hour meeting with their senior colleagues in Delhi today, where they broadly discussed strategies for the big fight in 2024.
After the meeting, Congress leader Alka Lamba said they have been asked to prepare to contest in all the seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital.
“We have been told how to prepare for the 2024 election. Before the Delhi meeting, the leadership has met our people in 18 states. It has been decided all Congress leaders will immediately go to work on the seven seats in Delhi to win them,” Ms Lamba told news agency ANI. “Seven months are left. All party workers have been asked to prepare for all seven seats,” she added.
Soon, Deepak Babaria, the Congress’s in-charge of Delhi, stepped in to clarify after the AAP expressed “surprise” and questioned the need for the INDIA bloc if parties are going to go solo.
Mr Babaria said the comment was the leader’s (Ms Lamba’s) opinion and no plan on seat-sharing was discussed in the meeting. “We did not discuss that issue in today’s meeting. The discussion was about how to strengthen the party in Delhi,” Mr Babaria said.
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann are also scheduled to visit Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh to campaign for their party on August 19 and 20.
Before Mr Babaria’s clarification, the AAP appeared to have taken a view on the matter that could have implications on the INDIA alliance.
“The Congress leader’s statement is very surprising. After such statements, what is the justification of the INDIA alliance? Arvind Kejriwal ji should decide on what to do next, which is important in the interest of the country. A decision should be taken,” AAP leader Vinay Mishra told String Reveals.
A section of the Delhi Congress is still sour over how the AAP suddenly came in the scene and decimated the Congress in the 2015 Delhi election. The AAP won 67 out of the 70 seats and the BJP took 3 seats. The Congress drew a blank then, which ended the party’s 15-year rule of Delhi under former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary and party leader Ajay Maken, who attended the meeting, highlighted possible issues linked to an alliance with the AAP, news agency PTI reported.
AAP leader and Delhi minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said nothing is known at the moment about any seat-sharing arrangement for the national election next year.
“When all the parties of the INDIA bloc sit and discuss seat-sharing, the national leadership of all the parties will come to an agreement. Till then nothing is concrete. All this is very far ahead,” Mr Bhardwaj said.