Why Arvind Kejriwal is untouchable for Rahul Gandhi

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Why Arvind Kejriwal is untouchable for Rahul Gandhi

It was surprising that Rahul Gandhi did not support Arvind Kejriwal while the latter was blaming PM Modi for everything that is wrong with Delhi today. But, why does Rahul Gandhi Arvind Kejriwal's at an arm's length?

Ever since Narendra Modi powered the BJP to power in 2014, the Congress has been trying to unite Opposition parties, first under Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul Gandhi as party president. Their strategy was successful in Bihar in 2015, the same year when Arvind Kejriwal with his new party swept the Congress out of power in Delhi.

After a series of setbacks in state elections, the Congress again looked striving for Opposition unity as Rahul Gandhi reaching out to many regional party leaders. The accommodated youth leaders Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani in Gujarat and offered unconditional support to JD(S) - the party which finished third with lesser number of seats and voter share in Karnataka elections - to form government.

In between Rahul Gandhi also approached leaders like TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, SP president Akhilesh Yadav, RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary, BSP chief Mayawati and others. But Rahul Gandhi did not send any feelers to Aam Aadmi Party convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the last three years. This looks surprising as both are ardent critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Even during the recent sit-in protest by Arvind Kejriwal at Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal's office complaining against the Centre's alleged interference with governance in Delhi, Rahul Gandhi and his Congress party remained a bitter critic of the AAP. Four chief ministers - Mamata Banerjee, Pinarayi Vijayan, N Chandrababu Naidu and HD Kumaraswamy - extended support to Kejriwal.

What Rahul, Congress leaders said about Kejriwal, AAP?

While Arvind Kejriwal virtually locked himself inside L-G office, Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter, "Delhi CM, sitting in Dharna at LG office. BJP sitting in Dharna at CM residence. Delhi bureaucrats addressing press conferences. PM turns a blind eye to the anarchy; rather nudges chaos and disorder. People of Delhi are the victims, as this drama plays out."

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken launched an attack on Kejriwal with his tweets and speeches during the Jal Satyagrah that his party has launched in the city. Maken defended his attack on Kejriwal at a time when he launched a campaign against PM Modi and the BJP. He said, when the people of Delhi have rejected Kejriwal why should the Congress support him.

Former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit said that Kejriwal should read Constitution before going for sit-in protest. Dikshit said that she felt "ashamed" watching photograph of Kejriwal lying idle on sofa in L-G office at a time when Delhi is facing power and water crisis and battling with sever air pollution.

Why Congress stays away from Kejriwal?

Kejriwal made his political capital by launching a tirade against the Congress party and its first family during Lokpal movement of activist Anna Hazare. Kerjiwal is known as "unguided missile loaded with political accusations". The Congress under Sonia Gandhi never invited him to all the meetings and marches that were held against the Modi government.

Rahul Gandhi has followed the same policy of keeping Kejriwal and the AAP at an arm's length since assuming the role of Congress president. Kejriwal attended the oath taking ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and so did Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.

But while the Congress leadership had interactions with rest of the Opposition leaders including Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, none approached or entertained Kejriwal, who remains "untouchable" for the grand old party.

There seems to be a strong Delhi connection behind Rahul Gandhi's decision not to support Kejriwal in his political slugfest with PM Modi. The Congress believes that the AAP is losing ground in Delhi, where it won 67 of 70 seats three years ago. The Congress' vote bank of Muslims and Dalits had supported the newly floated party that appeared as the flag-bearer of "new corruption-free politics".

The Congress is hopeful that in the next election, Muslims and Dalits will vote for it against the BJP while Kejriwal loses his anti-graft appeal. Delhi will go to polls in 2020.

If the Congress has a truck with the AAP at this point of time, it will have to play the role of a junior partner. It is already a junior partner in Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh - if SP or BSP agrees to have an alliance with it in most populous state.

Moreover, the Congress hopes to do well in the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Party's performance in Punjab and Gujarat coupled with its astute political maneuvreing in Karnataka to keep the BJP out of power has given the Congress leadership more confidence.

Favourable results in these states will be a morale booster for the Congress party ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections when it faces a tough challenge from the BJP-led NDA.

Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP just don't fit in the scheme of the things of Rahul Gandhi's Congress party.