Congress doesn’t want to concede any seat to AAP; closed-door talks on seat-sharing seem to have failed.
Desperate to win a Lok Sabha seat in Delhi after 10 years, the Congress has named former Delhi minister Arvinder Singh Lovely as city unit chief after the party failed to rope in old war horse Jai Prakash Aggarwal for leading the party during the crucial electoral outing in May 2024.
Aggarwal’s name had gained currency after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met the former MP in what was being seen as a bid to convince him to take up the new role. The talk to appoint the 80-year-old former MP was being speculated upon at a time when the party’s national-level alliance partner Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has shown little interest in leaving out any of the seven LS seats in the capital for the Congress under the one seat, one candidate arrangement among the Opposition parties to take on the BJP.
Initially, there was speculation that the AAP might contest on four or five seats and spare the other three or two seats for the Congress to be the principal challenger to the BJP on these seats. But the closed-door discussions on seat-sharing in Delhi seem to have fallen through.
At present, the Congress has no MP or MLA in Delhi. The grand old party also does not want to concede any seat to the AAP which has gone ahead to name in charges of 63 Assembly constituencies in the city as part of energising the organisational set up ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Before naming Lovely as the DPCC chief, the Congress wanted Aggarwal to helm the Delhi Congress as that would have given guaranteed positive results in at least two seats–Chandni Chowk and Northeast Delhi–with a sizeable Muslim and Vaish community population. Sources said that the party had relieved Aggarwal of the charge of party affairs in Madhya Pradesh with the intention of giving him charge of the DPCC but the veteran leader did not agree to take the final step. He is now being considered as a possible candidate for one of the seven seats in Delhi.
The current Delhi Congress president Anil Chaudhary’s three-year tenure ended in March and since then the party has been hunting for his successor. Earlier, AICC in-charge for Delhi Deepak Babaria held discussions with Congress workers at district and block levels on identifying a possible successor to Chaudhary.
Names of Congress leaders Lovely and Devendra Yadav had come up for discussion. The high command expressed a desire to have an experienced and “non-controversial” leader to head the party at a crucial stage when there are just nine months to go before the parliamentary polls. Meanwhile, the AAP has sent a strong signal to the Congress that it is in no mood to consider seat-sharing with it for the seven Lok Sabha seats in the Capital. By naming Assembly seat-level office-bearers for Lok Sabha polls, the Arvind Kejriwal-led party has stepped up preparations for parliamentary polls. Neither the AAP nor the Congress is willing to leave any of the LS seats for the other – implying that these parties want to field candidates on all seven seats and are not keen to follow the formula of one seat and one opposition candidate against the BJP. The AAP has identified 63 Delhi Assembly seats, out of the total 70, to strengthen its network ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. For these 63 Assembly seats–which constitute the seven Lok Sabha constituencies–the AAP has appointed Vidhansabaha Adhyaksh each in Assembly seats and Vidhansabha Sangathan Mantris. AAP Delhi unit chief Gopal Rai said the new office bearers have been tasked to strengthen the party in their respective Assembly constituencies. He said the party’s reorganisation should not be seen as a unilateral decision to contest all seven Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP has already taken a lead over the Congress and the AAP by naming in-charges for the seven Lok Sabha seats. Rajesh Bhatia has been appointed the in-charge for the Chandni Chowk seat, Rajiv Babbar for South Delhi, Yogendra Chandaulia has been given the charge of North-West Delhi seat. Kamaljeet Sehrawat has been made in-charge of North East Delhi, Dinesh Pratap Singh will look after the New Delhi seat, Jai Prakash will be in-charge of West Delhi while Harsh Malhotra will look after the East Delhi seat. The BJP has managed to win all seven Lok Sabha seats in the city in 2014 and 2019. A triangular fight on all the seats with BJP facing challenge from the Congress and the AAP has worked in favour of the saffron party with the AAP eating into the Muslim and Dalit voter base of Congress. The AAP has consistently been getting over 22% of vote share in Delhi elections, which is much above the vote share of the Congress. The BJP’s vote share in the Delhi elections has been hovering between 37-43%.