With the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party all set to form the next government in Delhi, Congress cadres are furious with former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for forcing the party to prop up the new dispensation. Anita Katyal reports.
Bitter party leaders blamed Dikshit for unnecessarily insisting that the Congress offer “unconditional” support to an AAP government, saying this move would prove “suicidal” for the Congress.
“Dikshit thought she was laying a trap for AAP but we have ended up falling in the trap,” a senior Congress leader told rediff.com.
When the Congress first announced that it was willing to give support to Kejriwal’s AAP, it was assumed that the latter would refuse the offer given its stated position to remain equidistant from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In such a situation, people would have been charge them for running away from discharging their responsibilities and dubbed its leaders as ‘shirkers’. This would have suited both the Congress and the BJP as the two parties would then have launched a campaign against the AAP and discrediting the newcomers.
Consequently, the Congress lost no time in dashing off a letter to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.
But now that AAP has decided to take the plunge and form a minority government, the knives are out for Dikshit as she is learnt to have prevailed upon the Congress leadership that its eight Delhi members of Legislative Assembly should lend outside support to an AAP government.
The Congress rank and file believes the party has tied itself in knots because it will have little choice but to support the new party’s agenda, failing which it will be dubbed as being undependable and a traitor.
In fact, the AAP preempted the Congress and put it on notice even before it had formed the government. Kejriwal’s close aide Prashant Bhushan remarked that the new government would not last long while another senior AAP leader Shazia Ilmi maintained government formation was a daunting task.
Both warned the Congress that it would stand exposed if it pulled the plug on the AAP government.
"If the Congress and the BJP join hands to pull down our government, it's their wish." Bhushan said, adding, "Given the past track record of the Congress party, I don't expect that our government will survive for long. We are prepared not to accept any condition by the Congress or the BJP."
Now that it has committed support, the Congress finds itself in a catch-22 situation.
“The Kejriwal government will walk away with all the credit if it succeeds in implementing even one major electoral promise but we will end up getting the blame if they fail to deliver,” remarked a senior Congress leader, adding that their party will then be taunted for becoming a stumbling block.
Another bitter Congress leader complained that they would all have to suffer in silence as the AAP launches a public tirade against them, even going as far as to order enquiries into the various decisions taken by the Dikshit government.
“Why have we placed ourselves in this situation… we have only ended up inviting trouble for ourselves,” he added.
It is also believed that this move would have serious implications for the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Having been reduced to eight MLAs in the Delhi assembly, party cadres are already a demoralised lot. The party is unlikely to be in any mood to fight back once it has becomes an appendage of the AAP government.
There is an overwhelming view that the Congress should have stayed away from this game of government formation even if it meant a spell of Central rule and instead allowed the BJP and the AAP to slug it out.
“The anger would have abated by then and new permutations and combinations would he emerged by then,” said an AICC general secretary.
As anger builds up against Dikshit, the former chief minister is attempting to wriggle out of a difficult situation. Her camp followers maintain it was not her decision to support the AAP and that the proposal was mooted by Shakeel Ahmed, All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Delhi.
Diskhit also sought to distance herself from the initial offer of unconditional support.
“We are not giving unconditional support to the AAP; this is where they are misleading the people…it will depend on their performance ,” she told media persons on Monday even as she urged the news government to fulfill all its electoral promises.
This in sharp contrast to the letter sent to Najeeb Jung in which the Congress offered unconditional support to Kejriwal’s AAP.
Dikshit’s sympathisers in Congress went out of their way to justify the decision to support the AAP. According to them, the party had little choice in the matter as no Congress candidate was ready to contest another election within six months.
“Their morale is really low and they do not have the will or the resources to face the electorate so soon,” said a Congress leader. Another Dikshit supporter asserted that the Congress decision had been appreciated by the electorate as it demonstrated that the party had listened to the voice of the people.