The Congress should neither support the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its fight against the Centre’s ordinance on the posting and transfers of civil servants in the national capital nor should it meet the AAP’s convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, leaders from Delhi and Punjab told party president Mallikarjun Kharge and former MP Rahul Gandhi on Monday.
The meeting was convened by Mr. Kharge after Mr. Kejriwal sought to meet him and Mr. Gandhi to seek their support in Parliament against the Centre’s ordinance that gives the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi the final say over bureaucrats serving in the Delhi Government.
Mr. Kejriwal has already met several Chief Ministers of Opposition parties, including Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), K. Chandrashekhar Rao (Telangana) and Nitish Kumar (Bihar), and Opposition leaders, including Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena (UBT faction), and secured their backing.
The Congress chief, however, is said to have conveyed to Mr. Kejriwal that he would take a decision after having a word with State party leaders.
Mr. Kharge and Mr. Gandhi, along with Congress general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal, met the party’s Punjab and Delhi leaders at the All India Congress Committee headquarters over two separate sessions to take their opinion.
A couple of leaders who were part of the Punjab meeting told The Hindu that they had strongly opposed supporting the AAP or “trusting” Mr. Kejriwal. Arguing strongly against the AAP, they said they had pointed out that the AAP had been viciously targeting Congress workers by registering cases against them and arresting them, and calling them the “B-team” of the BJP.
While some Congress leaders argued that Mr. Kejriwal and his party had never stood by the Congress, others argued that the Delhi Chief Minister was now trying to reach out after finding himself “cornered” in the Delhi liquor policy and, more recently, the controversial renovation of his official residence which reportedly cost over ₹50 crore.
If the Congress high command decided to support the AAP, the Punjab Congress could meet the same fate as the Delhi unit that got decimated in successive Assembly elections, a Congress leader said. “All the leaders have said the party high command will decide and we have left it to party chief Mallikarjun Kharge to take the final decision,” Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja told reporters.
Without divulging his position on the issue, Mr. Sidhu, however, asserted that India’s constitutional values had been devalued and that “people should rise above partisan interests and stand with democratic principles”.
Sources in the Delhi Congress said that most of those present at the meeting were against supporting the AAP, with only one or two members standing otherwise. The final decision, they said, would be taken by the Congress high command but the issues that the Delhi unit has been raising publicly (against providing support to the AAP) had been presented at the meeting.