Even as the Aam Aadmi Party is conducting jan sabhas across Delhi and using the social media to ascertain the views of the people on the issue of government formation, there is growing disquiet within the Congress over its decision to back an AAP government. Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh told dna on Saturday that the Congress was committing political harakiri by propping up an AAP government. Ramesh’s view is shared by a section of the party leaders, sources said.
Ramesh’s statement comes a day after dna reported that he would quit as cabinet minister to focus on party work ahead of the general elections. Several senior leaders were expected to quit the government for party work. Consequently, on Saturday, Union environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan resigned.
The stand taken by AAP leaders against the Congress has angered leaders like Ramesh. It is feared that if AAP comes to power then it will further humiliate the arty and if the latter withdraws support to the new government, then it will be blamed for creating political instability.
Efforts are being made to persuade party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to have a rethink on the issue of extending support. Or even if support is given then it should be with a condition that AAP clarify its stand on Kashmir. Senior AAP leader Prashant Bhushan, who is regarded as the second most influential leader in the party, had reportedly favoured grant of azadi (freedom) to Kashmiris if they so desire. He was even attacked for expressing his views.
All India Congress Committee general secretary Gurudas Kamat said his party was extending a principled support to AAP. “There is no way we can support the BJP. If we do not back AAP then the only alternative is to go for yet another elections which will be a costly affair. As a responsible national party we have extended support to the AAP,” he said.
However, sources in the AICC said AAP was certain to tie up itself in knots once it comes to power. It is felt that it will not be able to fulfill its promises – 50% reduction in power tariff and 700 litres of water per head daily - within the three-month deadline that AAP has set for itself.
Within AAP itself there is resentment over the move to form the government Congress’ support. A senior functionary of AAP, Preeti Menon, said, “Personally I am not for it (taking the help of the Congress).” However, another prominent functionary Anjali Damania said AAP will take support from the Congress. “But wait and see what we do,” she added.
Natarajan resigns; Scindia RPN Singh to follow suit?: As a part of its plan to gear up for the general elections, Congress on Saturday recalled minister of state for environment and forests (independent charge) Jayanthi Natarajan from the council of ministers, probably to be appointed as spokesperson once again. Sources said more ministers are expected to resign soon to be drafted at key posts in the party.
A Rashtrapati Bhawan communique said the president has accepted her resignation of 59-year-old Natarajan and given the additional charge of her ministry to petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily. She was inducted in the ministry two years ago.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh is also believed to have submitted resignation to prime minister Manmohan Singh who asked him to wait for a while to finish off some of the important works in the ministry. Minister of state for power (independent charge) Jyotiraditya Scindia and minister of state for home RPN Singh, both Lok Sabha members from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh respectively, are believed to have also offered to resign to concentrate on the party work in their respective states. Other ministers have been asked to devote maximum time for the organisation without resigning from the government.
After recent debacle in polls, Natarajan was amongst the few faces to defend party its vice-president Rahul Gandhi. She described drubbing as “collective failure” and not because of one man.
The first priority for the Congress is to augment its panel of spokespersons, where the party leaders believe except Randeep Singh Surjiwala, none amongst others is able to face questions and communicate. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last Wednesday at the parliamentary party meeting attributed the party’s rout in the assembly elections as failure to communicate with people and to convince them about its policies, programmes and achievements.
—With inputs from New Delhi