Alliance negotiations between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress in Delhi took a dramatic turn after Congress President Rahul Gandhi put out a tweet on 15 April. “An alliance between the Congress & AAP in Delhi would mean the rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress is willing to give up 4 Delhi seats to the AAP to ensure this. But, Mr Kejriwal has done yet another U turn! Our doors are still open, but the clock is running out,” Gandhi said.
AAP has responded to Gandhi by saying that it wants an alliance not just in Delhi but Haryana and Chandigarh as well. Gopal Rai, a minister in the Delhi government, put out a tweet on Monday saying that the Congress wants to defeat the BJP in Delhi but it wants the BJP to win all 11 seats in Haryana and Chandigarh (by not allying with the AAP).
These statements suggest that the Congress is not willing to offer seats to the AAP in Haryana and Chandigarh in return for an alliance in Delhi.
An HT analysis suggests that gains from an AAP-Congress alliance are not as straightforward in Haryana as they are in Delhi. The combined vote share of the AAP and the Congress was more than that of the BJP in six out of seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all seven seats in Delhi in 2014. However, the BJP and its ally Haryana Janhit Congress would not have lost any seat even if the AAP and the Congress were together in Haryana in 2014.
Combined vote share of the AAP and Congress was more than that of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in only Rohtak and Sirsa. Rohtak went to the Congress, while the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) won the Sirsa seat. The AAP and Congress would have been able to defeat the BJP in Chandigarh if their votes were to be added together.
These statistics suggest that while an AAP-Congress alliance in Haryana might not yield tangible gains to either of the parties, the latter might end up ceding space to the former. Unlike in Delhi and Punjab, the AAP has not been successful in establishing itself as a political force in Haryana. In Delhi AAP’s growth has come at the cost of the Congress. While not having an alliance with the AAP might make sense from a ‘preserving political turf’ viewpoint for the Congress, neither the AAP nor the Congress can expect to make major gains in Haryana if they contest on their own.
Assembly elections were held in Haryana months after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Both the Congress and the BJP contested these elections alone. Extrapolating the assembly results at the parliamentary constituency (PC) level shows that the Congress would have got just one Lok Sabha seat in these elections. Congress’s PC-wise vote share also came down in six out of the 10 PCs in Haryana between the Lok Sabha and assembly elections. The AAP did not contest the Haryana assembly elections after its shock defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
To be sure, the AAP might have complicated the alliance talks in Haryana by going ahead and announcing an alliance with the newly formed Jananayak Janata Party (JJP), which is a splinter group of the INLD. The JJP candidate Digvijay Singh Chautala, who contested as an independent, polled much more votes (28.8%) than the Congress (17.3%) and official INLD (2.6%) in the January 2019 by-election in the Jind assembly constituency in Haryana. The BJP won the seat with a 38.7% vote share.
The AAP is yet to come clean on whether it will break its pact with the JJP or ask the Congress to accommodate the JJP in the alliance it wants to form in Haryana. If the JJP is able to replace the INLD like it did in the Jind bypoll, and it ties up with the Congress and the AAP, it could lead to a complete consolidation of Jat votes in the state; Jats make up the main social base of the INLD. On paper this could be an extremely formidable coalition. However, this will entail a significant sacrifice on part of the Congress in terms of Lok Sabha seats.
The reward for this sacrifice in Haryana could be a lifeline for the Congress in Delhi, where the party has finished third in all assembly, Lok Sabha and municipal elections since AAP came into the fray in 2013.
That the AAP is interested in forging an alliance with the Congress in Delhi also shows that it is unsure about its prospects if it contests alone. As of now the Congress and the AAP seem to trying to safeguard against upsets at the hands of the BJP without letting the other side have a better bargain. It will be interesting to see how or whether they can resolve this contradiction in the next few days.
Apr 17, 2019 08:10 IST
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