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Speculations strengthen about AAP-Cong alliance in 2019 polls

Sheila Dikshit may take charge as Congress’s Delhi unit chief

Speculations strengthen about AAP-Cong alliance in 2019 polls

NEW DELHI: A few months before the Lok Sabha election, senior Congress leader Ajay Maken has resigned as the party's Delhi unit chief citing health reasons. Maken said that his resignation has been accepted and he would now work for the party in preparing it for the 2019 general election, due by May. "I had tendered my resignation in September itself. I met Rahul ji on Thursday to insist again (to be relieved as Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief). I said DPCC president should be 100 per cent fit before elections. I would now work for the party and prepare it for the Lok Sabha election," the 54-year-old leader said.

Asked if his resignation has been accepted, Maken said, "Yes, Yes. That has happened" and added he was undergoing treatment for an orthopaedic ailment.

Maken's resignation assumes significance amid speculation of a possible alliance between the Congress and the AAP in Delhi for 2019 polls. He was strongly opposed to any tie-up with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party in the national Capital.

Meanwhile, AAP broadens its possibility with the Congress as according to sources the party has informed all its state-level committees regarding the possible alliance with anti-BJP parties including Congress. "We have discussed every aspect of the Lok Sabha election with the members of the party and state representatives. We will fight against the BJP and not work as a vote cutter. We are open to an anti-BJP alliance," said an insider of AAP.

However, according to the sources more than the Delhi Pradesh Congress, it is the high command which is eager to take the AAP in the alliance. AAP for the 2019 Lok Sabha election planned to focus on the Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. Among these three states, in Delhi, both the parties are majorly distant from each other. "If we make an alliance keeping in mind the all India scenario what benefit will AAP get in Delhi?" asked a senior leader of the party.

On the other hand, other leaders like former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, her son and former MP Sandeep Dikshit, and former MP and ex-DPCC chief J.P. Agarwal advocate a strategic tie-up with the AAP for the Lok Sabha polls. They believe that this would prevent the BJP, which bagged all seven in 2014, from winning any.

Sources said party president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Congress party affairs in-charge P C Chacko and Maken held a meeting on Thursday evening and Gandhi accepted his resignation. Later, Maken took to Twitter to announce his resignation. He had taken over as the Delhi unit chief after the party lost the 2015 assembly election. "After the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, as its

Delhi unit president, I received a lot of love and support from Congress workers, the media covering the party and our leader Rahul Gandhi ji. It was not easy in these difficult times. Thank you all," he tweeted.

The Congress in September last year had denied reports of Maken's resignation and said he had gone abroad for a medical checkup. The party sources said former chief minister Sheila Dikshit could replace Maken as Congress's Delhi unit chief. She has maintained that the party high command's decision on sealing an alliance in Delhi will be accepted by her. The AAP and the Congress have not yet denied the speculation. While targeting the Aam Aadmi Party, senior advocate H S Phoolka, who resigned from the party Friday, said converting an anti-corruption movement into a political party in 2012 was "wrong", while ruling out contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

Addressing reporters, Phoolka said there is a need to form a movement like the one started by activist Anna Hazare in 2012 and that many who have left the AAP and others, including lawyers and doctors, need to unite to form an organisation parallel to political parties. Congress leaders Yoganand Shastri, Rajkumar Chauhan, Haroon Yusuf and Chatar Singh could also be considered as Maken's replacement, the sources said.

ROUSHAN ALI AND SAYANTAN GHOSH

ROUSHAN ALI AND SAYANTAN GHOSH

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