India lives in its states and regions, and this is sometimes obscured in discussions when political parties attempt to get together to work for a common electoral goal. When a large number of Opposition parties seek to coordinate efforts to challenge the ruling BJP, it is natural that in each state even parties that share a larger overall national goal will work to maximise their own advantage. There is really no normative principle at work.
After much deliberation on both sides, the Congress decided on Tuesday not to go with AAP in Delhi. While the AAP is in government in the National Capital Territory, it is a very new party and has only four Lok Sabha MPs — all from Punjab. The talks may have been more fruitful if the AAP had confined the negotiations to Delhi, and not insisted on sharing seats with the Congress in Punjab and Haryana, where the Congress has traditionally been a substantial force (and the AAP no force at all).
Elsewhere, the Congress’ alliance scheme has worked out, broadly. On Tuesday, a deal on seats was reached with the JD(S) in Karnataka, and earlier with DMK in Tamil Nadu. Its negotiations with the RJD in Bihar are on course, though hiccups remain with some smaller parties. In Uttar Pradesh, the alliance arithmetic hasn’t been elusive. In West Bengal, the Congress and the CPI(M) have reached an understanding on a few seats, but none with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress.
The same is also roughly true of the BJP, that managed to retain two of its traditional allies, Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, for the coming parliamentary election, losing only the TDP.