NEW DELHI, Feb 10: Giving a further crushing blow to the already crumbling INDIA bloc, the Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday opted out of the opposition alliance at least in Punjab unilaterally announcing its decision to contest all the 13 seats in the Lok Sabha elections in the state.
The AAP chief and the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal while addressing a rally in Khanna in Punjab announced that his party would contest all the 13 seats in the state and the lone seat in the union territory of Chandigarh, the join capital of Punjab and Haryana, ruling out any further talks with the Congress on seat-sharing. The comments of the Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on the sidelines of the rally that the Congress had lost its footing in his state further underlined the deep chasm between the two parties.
Mr Kejriwal said his party would soon announce candidates for all the 13 seats in Punjab signalling that there would be no alliance with the Congress in the state. Mr Kejriwal also took a dig at the Congress and said people in Punjab would be hard-pressed to remember any “good work” that his INDIA ally had done when it ruled the state.
The Delhi chief minister’s statement will add to the turmoil in the opposition grouping, which is already reeling from Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s declaration that her party will go solo in West Bengal, and is yet to recover from the loss of one of its principal architects, Janata Dal (United) President Nitish Kumar, who switched to the BJP-led NDA last month.
The situation is equally topsy-turvy in Uttar Pradesh, where there have been signs of an agreement between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, but there is also strong speculation of another INDIA ally, the Jayant Chaudhary-led Rashtriya Lok Dal, joining hands with the NDA. The buzz has grown stronger since the government announced that the Bharat Ratna will be conferred posthumously on former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, who was Jayant Chaudhary’s grandfather.
Speaking at a public event on the doorstep delivery of ration in Punjab, Mr Kejriwal said in Hindi, “Two years back, you gave us blessings. You gave 92 out of 117 seats to us (in Assembly elections), you created history in Punjab. I have come to you with folded hands, asking for one more blessing. Lok Sabha elections will be held in two months. For Lok Sabha elections, Punjab has 13 seats and one from Chandigarh – a total of 14 seats. In the next 10-15 days, AAP will declare its candidates in all of these 14 seats. You have to make AAP sweep all these 14 seats with a majority,” he said. The AAP had won 92 of the 117 seats in the state in the Assembly election.
“The Bhagwant Mann government has done such good work in less than two years, including giving free electricity. The Congress ruled (the state) for so many years in the past 75 years. If I ask you to tell me one good work the Congress has done, you will not be able to remember. If I ask you for one good thing that Akali Dal had done, you will not remember,” the AAP chief said.
The two parties, traditionally bitter rivals in Punjab and Delhi, had contested the Chandigarh mayoral elections together last month, indicating that they could extend the alliance to the Lok Sabha elections. However, Kejriwal’s remark indicates that the two parties may face the BJP and SAD in Punjab in a quadrilateral electoral competition.
Only last month, Kejriwal had declared that while his AAP would contest all the 90 seats in the state Assembly elections in Punjab, the party would contest the Lok Sabha elections as part of the opposition INDIA bloc. Apparently, like the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, the AAP is also out of patience indefinitely waiting for the Congress to talk on the seat-sharing.
The BJP took a sharp jibe at Rahul Gandhi and the Congress-led INDIA bloc, Reacting to the announcement, BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said the INDIA bloc was crumbling.
“One more blow to the INDI alliance…Arvind Kejriwal has announced today that the AAP will contest alone on 13 seats of Punjab and one seat of Chandigarh. It means the INDI Alliance will not contest there, there won’t be an alliance there…The structure of the INDI Alliance is crumbling…No mission, no vision, only commission, only corruption, only confusion, only contradiction. Rahul Gandhi’s Nyay Yatra is strange. It is more of ‘bye yatra’ than Nyay Yatra. He should have taken out ‘INDI jodo yatra‘ instead,” he said.