After Mamata Breaks Up with INDIA in Bengal, CM Mann Reiterates No AAP-Congress Alliance in Punjab

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann addresses a press conference at Punjab Bhawan, in Chandigarh on January 24. (Image: PTI)

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann addresses a press conference at Punjab Bhawan, in Chandigarh on January 24. (Image: PTI)

Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann said the AAP is shortlisting candidates for all 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state

Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann said there will be no alliance between the AAP and Congress in the state for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. While he has said this before, his reiteration now assumes significance as it comes close on the heels of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee announcing that her party will fight the general elections alone.

“We are shortlisting candidates for the 13 Lok Sabha seats; this includes volunteers and other potential constants. At least 40 names have been discussed for the 13 constituencies; for some constituencies, there are four shortlisted candidates while for others there is only one. Jalandhar, for instance, has a sitting MP. The party will conduct surveys and the candidate with the winning potential will be finalised,” Mann told reporters on Wednesday.

After returning from his three-day visit to Goa on January 20, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal held a crucial meeting on Punjab, where Mann and Rajya Sabha MP Sandeep Pathak were also present. Neither the AAP nor the Congress are willing to share space with each other in the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress, incidentally, has seven sitting MPs in Punjab and will not settle for less than that. The other important factor is, that if the Congress and AAP come together, they will leave the “opposition” space open to the Akalis and BJP. Additionally, unlike in Delhi, the BJP is not an important player in Punjab.

The understanding hammered out between the AAP and Congress is that the former will contest for the post of mayor while the latter will contest two posts of deputy mayor and senior deputy mayor. Together, the two have 20 votes, which is more than the BJP’s 15.

The mayoral elections were postponed on January 18 after the presiding officer, a BJP leader, fell ill just as polling was about to begin. Both the parties protested together with the AAP moving the high court, which has announced January 30 as the next date for elections.

The Chandigarh mayoral polls are being seen as the first test of the INDIA bloc. Last time, the BJP had won the this election.

Also, Kejriwal and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi met on January 13, right after Mallikarjun Kharge was appointed convener of the INDIA bloc. This was also before Gandhi left for Manipur to embark on the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

Sources said this meeting, apart from being a courtesy call, was a much-needed confidence building exercise given the bitter and acrimonious relationship between the two parties. It was also important given that the Delhi CM had asked for a meeting over tea with Gandhi but the Congress MP had kept him waiting until now.

The AAP is hoping to leverage its strength in Delhi and Punjab for Lok Sabha seats primarily in Gujarat, Goa and Haryana. While in Goa, as reported by News18 earlier, Kejriwal had said the AAP was discussing one seat as part of the INDIA bloc. The coastal state has only two Lok Sabha constituencies.

As far as Gujarat is concerned, Kejriwal has already unilaterally declared sitting MLA Chaitar Vasava as the AAP’s Lok Sabha candidate from Bharuch. Keen to have a foothold in neighbouring Haryana, which shares borders with Punjab and Delhi, the AAP is trying to convince the Congress to let go of a couple of seats. It is here where the talks can enter rough waters given the fact that the party has little or no electoral presence in the state.

As far as Delhi is concerned, there is an understanding between the two that if they come together then there is a chance of taking on the BJP. In negotiations, however, if push comes to shove on the AAP’s demand for a foothold in Haryana, Goa and Gujarat then the party may cede space in Punjab. The final decision on seat sharing will lie with the top leadership.

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