The much-hyped Patna meeting on which opposition’s hopes for 2024 are riding, hit an impasse today over Aam Aadmi Party’s insistence on unanimous support over Delhi bureaucrats issue. The four-hour session, held at the official residence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, saw high drama, with the Congress — which refuses to commit itself — reading out a ‘rap sheet’ of AAP.
The two parties have been at loggerheads for years, and with AAP growing at the cost of Congress in Gujarat, Punjab and other states, many leaders of the Grand Old Party are not too keen to sign up to help it.
AAP has dug in its heels, declaring that it would not be part of the united opposition unless Congress publicly opposes the Centre’s executive order taking away the control over bureaucrats in Delhi. It wanted the Congress to spell out its stand at today’s meeting.
The Congress hit out at AAP’s “either-or” stance. Party chief Mallikarjun Kharge read out several instances of AAP’s provocative statements against Congress, sources said.
Mr Kharge also mentioned AAP’s yesterday’s statement, claiming it has “vitiated the environment” for today’s meeting. Congress leaders showed AAP spokesman Priyanka Kakkar’s allegation of the Congress entering a deal with the BJP.
Mr Kejriwal said she was new and the statement was given without his approval.
Mr Kharge, sources said, pointed out that AAP regularly attends opposition strategy sessions and questioned the need for a different mechanism to take a call on the Ordinance. He also questioned the need to make it a pre-condition for an alliance against the BJP.
Sources said senior leader KC Venugopal, who was also present at the meet, weighed in, saying one cannot “put a gun to Congress’ head and demand negotiations”.
Mr Kharge and Rahul Gandhi, however, said there was “no question” of supporting anything moved by BJP. But there is a process in the party for taking such decisions and it will take 10 days before the next parliament session.
The assembled leaders, meanwhile, started weighing in on the issue. While Nitish Kumar was in favour of the Congress making its position clear, National Conference chief Omar Abdullah pointed out that the meeting was veering off course.
“We have not come here to discuss your issue, but the issues to how to stop the BJP,” sources quoted him as saying.
In the end, Mr Kejriwal appeared isolated as most leaders advised him not to make it a prestige issue.
The next meeting will be held on July 10 or 12, when the parties will try to formulate a strategy for the polls.