AAP had conditioned its support in the Rajya Sabha election on a personal request from Rahul Gandhi.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party will “boycott” Thursday’s Rajya Sabha deputy chairman elections because the Congress did not meet AAP’s one condition put on the table to get the support of its three lawmakers: A phone call from Rahul Gandhi.
Nitish Kumar, the Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal United chief, did pick up the phone to seek Arvind Kejriwal’s support for the JDU’s Harivansh Narayan Singh. But Mr Kejriwal had to turn down this request because the JDU’s first-time lawmaker is the official candidate of the BJP-led national coalition, NDA.
“It is not possible to support the JDU’s candidate which is in alliance with the BJP at the centre,” Sanjay Singh said about his party’s predicament.
Because the Congress doesn’t want his party’s support either, “the party didn’t have an option but to boycott the election,” Mr Singh said on Twitter. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind retweeted him.
The announcement was made a few hours after AAP conditioned its support in the Rajya Sabha election on a personal request from Rahul Gandhi.
“If Rahul Gandhi can hug Narendra Modi, why cannot he ask Arvind Kejriwal for support to his party’s candidate,” Mr Singh, who is also leader of AAP’s three-member team in the Rajya Sabha, said.
The BJP-led national coalition already has a clear edge over the opposition candidate, the Congress’s BK Hariprasad, after Naveen Patnaik, the Biju Janata Dal founder and Odisha Chief Minister announced his support to the JDU lawmaker.
“Our party will support the JDU candidate in the Rajya Sabha’s deputy chairman election,” Mr Patnaik announced, acknowledging that he had received calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar to seek his party’s support.
Irrespective of how the deputy chairman’s election plays out on Thursday, AAP leaders suggest the party is done with the Congress taking the party’s support for granted.
Mr Singh spoke about how AAP had gone along with the Congress candidates in last year’s presidential and vice presidential elections.
“But they did not even have the courtesy to say thank you,” said Mr Singh, one of the founder members of AAP.
AAP leaders contrast the Congress’s refusal to recognise their party’s contribution to former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav “gracious gesture” to acknowledge the support of each party, small or big, when the joint opposition candidate snatched the Kairana Lok Sabha seat from the BJP in May this year. AAP was a part of this anti-BJP front.
But many Congress leaders haven’t forgiven AAP for the 2011 anti-corruption movement that its founders – then as leaders of Indian Against Corruption – had extensively targeted the UPA government at the centre.
It was this campaign that is seen to have immensely contributed to eroding the credibility of the Congress-led UPA government. This created the ground for the BJP’s Narendra Modi to move in for the kill in 2014.
This is one reason why the Congress has never invited Arvind Kejriwal to any of the lunch and dinner meetings that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi host. Or why the Congress big guns are never seek exchanging pleasantries with Arvind Kejriwal at opposition events like Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony in May this year, or at the Jantar Mantar protest against Bihar rapes organised by Tejashwi Yadav.
On his own, Rahul Gandhi is said to have been open to working with AAP in Delhi and beyond. But the last time some Congress leaders reportedly got in touch with AAP to explore a partnership in some states, its state units in Delhi and Punjab protested vociferously. A top Congress leader recently told NDTV that the party leadership did not favour thrusting alliances on its state units.