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Barkis is willin’

- Cong keen to unleash support on AAP
Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The Congress has decided to offer support to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is being viewed as a gambit to test if the fledgling party will shoulder the responsibility of power and to pre-empt suggestions that the UPA is keen on central rule in Delhi.

AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has not sought any help from the Congress. On the contrary, Kejriwal said tonight: “We are ready for it (re-election). At present, we will neither take, nor extend, support to either the BJP or the Congress to form the government. But unlike this election, the next election would be contested between the BJP and AAP, as the Congress has lost badly.”

The Congress’s shrunken tally of eight MLAs is sufficient for the 28-seat AAP to hit the majority mark of 36. A Congress leader said: “The ball is in Kejriwal’s court. We will extend support from outside if he (Kejriwal) forms the government. We want to keep communal forces at bay and protect Delhi from the additional financial burden that a fresh election would entail. This decision has been cleared at the highest level.”

Lieutenant-governor Najeeb Jung will have to first invite the BJP which is the single largest party, having 31 MLAs (32, if partner Akali Dal’s lone seat is counted) to form the government. If the BJP declines for want of majority, the invite will go to the AAP.

Although Kejriwal has unambiguously declared he would not form the government and the AAP would work as a constructive Opposition, the Congress is trying to make the most of a hopeless situation.

The Congress is hoping that an unconditional offer of support to the AAP would shield the party from the charge of sitting still to prevent government formation and bring Delhi under central rule. If Kejriwal sticks to his decision of not forming the government now, the Congress will try to buttress the allegation that the AAP was shunning responsibility.

The Congress had built its campaign against the AAP by asserting that governance was not child’s play (sarkar chalana gudde-gudiyon ka khel nahi hai) and accusing Kejriwal of selling dreams that cannot be fulfilled.

The Congress general secretary in charge of Delhi, Shakeel Ahmed, was cautious, confining himself to saying that the party MLAs suggested extending support to the AAP and the proposal would be placed before the leadership.

But a source said the decision had already been taken. “We are keen the message goes out to the people that the Congress wants to honour their mandate and protect Delhi from instability and communalism,” a source said.

The Congress is keen to pick up some talking points and battle a perception that it had been elbowed out of the political frame in Delhi. It already wondered aloud today why the BJP and the AAP were shirking responsibility and thrusting another election on Delhi by refusing to form a government.

Congress leaders are openly saying the AAP is afraid of “getting exposed” and that the BJP has betrayed the people of Delhi by staying obsessed with the Lok Sabha elections.

Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar said: “Why this eagerness to sit in Opposition? Why don’t they want to form a government and fulfil promises made to the people? People voted them with great expectations. There is no need to force another election. We want to see how the AAP halves the electricity bill, gives 750 litres of water free. If they can, it is good for the people, we will welcome it.”

Babbar added: “We want to know how vegetable prices slumped in Delhi after the polling day. Onions sold at Rs 100 are available for Rs 15-20. Who controls the markets? Who are the hoarders?”

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