The Congress agreement today to back Aam Aadmi Party against the Centre’s executive order on Delhi bureaucrats, has brought the opposition unity efforts from crash-landing before a take-off. Sources attribute it to the behind-the-scenes work by two top opposition leaders. The first is Nitish Kumar — who volunteered to bring the opposition under the same umbrella. The second is Mamata Banerjee, who lent her weight to the issue at a critical juncture.
The Congress has been on the fence on the Ordinance after sharp opposition from its Delhi leaders, including Ajay Maken. But Arvind Kejriwal’s party made it clear that a “yes” from Congress about joining the battle in parliament was a pre-condition for its attendance in the next opposition meet in Patna.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge had made it clear that his party is still mulling the issue and will make its stance clear – eventually. But with days to go for the beginning of the monsoon session, AAP signalled that it would not budge without a clear statement from the Congress.
When Mr Kharge dialled the AAP chief to invite him for the July 17 Opposition meet in Bengaluru, which is being hosted by the Congress, Mr Kejriwal remained non-committal, sources said.
That was the cue for entry of Mt Kumar and Ms Banerjee, who explained to the Congress leadership that unless there they clarified their stance, the opposition wall will end up with a Delhi-Punjab sized hole.
The Congress agreed, but there was a last-minute hiccup: The arrest of a senior leader of the Party in AAP-ruled Punjab by the Bhagwant Mann government in a corruption case.
Former Punjab Minister OP Soni’s arrest came amid the anti-corruption campaign launched by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.
On Saturday the Congress leadership met again and decided they would not support the Ordinance. But this was not communicated by Jairam Ramesh, the party’s communication in-charge.
As AAP dug in its heels, Mamata Banejee frantically dialled Mr Kharge, sources said.
This evening, after a meeting of its executive committee, AAP declared that it would join the Bengaluru meet on July 17-18.
“Today, the Congress party has also cleared its stand against the Ordinance of Delhi and has announced to register its protest. We welcome this announcement of the Congress party. With this, I would like to say that the Aam Aadmi Party will participate in the meeting of opposition parties to be held in Bangalore on July 17-18 under the chairmanship of Arvind Kejriwal,” AAP’s Raghav Chadha announced after the party’s internal meeting.