A first: Gandhis vote for non-Congress nominee in New Delhi : The Tribune India

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A first: Gandhis vote for non-Congress nominee in New Delhi

AAP’s Somnath Bharti Opposition face in seat that once elected first woman CM Sucheta Kripalani

A first: Gandhis vote for non-Congress nominee in New Delhi

Rahul Gandhi takes a selfie with mother Sonia after voting in New Delhi. MANAS RANJAN BHUI

Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, May 25

For the first time in their political careers, the Congress’ top brass—Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra—on Saturday voted for a non-Congress nominee in the New Delhi parliamentary constituency where they are registered voters.

Apart from former Congress presidents Sonia and and her son Rahul, general secretary Priyanka, her husband Robert Vadra and children Raihan and Miraya also voted for a non-Congress candidate. Under a seat-sharing arrangement, the Congress conceded the VVIP constituency too AAP, which fielded Somnath Bharti.

The sacrifice of the New Delhi and other segments to AAP as part of the pre-poll deal continues to cause anxiety in the Congress ranks even though Sonia justified it saying the 2024 election was about “saving the Constitution and democracy”. Congress cadres, however, don’t take the visuals of Gandhis voting for AAP as heartening, especially because AAP has grown at the expense of the grand old party in Delhi.

Right from the start, senior Delhi Congress leaders had wanted this seat, along with North East Delhi where late three-term Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had finished second in 2019 behind BJP’s Manoj Tewari, to stay with the Congress. In the New Delhi constituency, Ajay Maken of the Congress had finished second and AAP’s Brijesh Goyal third while BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi emerged victorious.

“Watching your top leadership vote for a candidate of another party is hardly reassuring. It is demoralising,” says veteran Ramesh Sabharwal of the Delhi Congress.

Sabharwal says the Congress should at least have kept in its kitty New Delhi, a seat where its top leaders vote. The first two elections in New Delhi were won by Sucheta Kripalani, who went on to become India’s first woman Chief Minister of UP. This segment was also represented by actor Rajesh Khanna apart from BJP veterans like AB Vajpayee, LK Advani and Jagmohan Malhotra.

A Delhi Congress leader who watched Sonia and son Rahul take happy selfies at a New Delhi booth today said he would have wanted the top leadership to at least vote for a Congress nominee. “The Congress’ complete diffidence in the face of AAP’s hard bargaining in the Delhi seat-sharing deal was unfathomable. AAP argued that though they finished behind the Congress in the New Delhi segment in 2019, they currently hold all Assembly seats of the area. But there is a difference between the Assembly and the General Election. In national elections, the Congress track record as a direct rival to the BJP is better than AAP in Delhi,” says former Delhi Congress president Lovely, who recently joined the BJP.

In 2019 when the BJP swept all seven seats in Delhi, the Congress had finished second in five seats as against AAP’s two. These seats were East Delhi (Lovely was second and AAP’s Atishi third); North East Delhi (late Sheila Dikshit was second); New Delhi (Ajay Maken was second); Chandni Chowk (JP Agarwal was behind BJP’s winner Harsh Vardhan) and West Delhi (BJP’s Parvesh Verma defeated Congress’ Mahabal Mishra). AAP leaders finished second in South Delhi (Raghav Chadha) and North West Delhi (Gugan Singh).

Also, three AAP candidates (Pankaj Gupta from Chandki Chowk; Dilip Pandey from North East and Brijesh Goyal from New Delhi) lost security deposits against only one of the Congress—boxer Vijender Singh who contested from South Delhi. Vijender is also with the BJP now while Mahabal Mishra contested West Delhi on the AAP ticket.

Congress workers privately fear that AAP may further dent the Congress presence in Delhi. They cite the 2013 move when the Congress backed AAP’s bid at government formation in Delhi. AAP swept subsequent Assembly elections while the Congress was wiped out in a state where its leader Sheila Dikshit was the CM thrice from 1998 to 2013.

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#Congress #Priyanka Gandhi Vadra #Rahul Gandhi #Sonia Gandhi

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