SP, Congress finalises seat sharing, alliance announcement likely next week


India, Politics

Factors such as constituencies, candidates and joint campaign strategies would be chalked out in the next two days.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. (Photos: PTI)

Lucknow: Even as political pundits predict a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party in the run up to the decisive elections in Uttar Pradesh spanning February-March, reports indicate that a formal announcement of the same could be made next week.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, interlocutors from both the parties have started hectic parleys on drawing out a strategy for sharing the state’s 404-member assembly seats, and Congress sources were quoted as saying that the party hopes to contest in 100 seats.

The report also quoted SP sources saying that other factors such as constituencies, candidates and joint campaign strategies would be chalked out in the next two days, with senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad establishing channels of communications with relevant SP leaders to ‘work out the details’.

The impending alliance was long in the pipeline, with leaders from both sides dropping hints.

Earlier this month, Congress’ UP face Sheila Dikshit had announced that she would be happy to step aside for Akhilesh Yadav as the prospective chief minister of the state, if at all there were to be a pre-poll tie up.

Congress Party’s election strategist for UP polls, Prashant Kishor, had also raised eyebrows late last year with his frequent visits to the Akhilesh camp.

The murmurs started after Akhilesh surprised everyone in September last, praising Rahul Gandhi as a “good human being”.

As the BJP continues to fret over its prospects UP, the Dimple-Priyanka posters with the slogan - "Mahilaon ka bajega danka" (women will lead from the front and emerge victorious) - seem to have energised Congress workers in the state.

The saffronites intends to tone down their rhetoric against the BSP and focus mainly on targeting Akhilesh Yadav. Some BJP functionaries have also been asked to open a backchannel with the BSP, “if possible.”

Meanwhile The BSP has so far shown no inclination of any post-poll allaince with the BJP.

While speculation ran rife that the Congress and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) could be offered around 135 of the 403 seats by the SP, uncertainty prevailed in the BJP camp.

The BJP, which has begun the process of selecting candidates, seems somewhat apprehensive about the party's prospects in UP following the possibility of a grand alliance of "secular" parties.

Though the BJP was trying to take advantage of the family feud in SP, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has emerged as “enemy number one” for the party.

A senior BJP functionary from UP, who has been providing regular feedback to the party high command, said, “By going against the old guard, Akhilesh has managed to demolish the anti-incumbency against his government.” The BJP functionary also said that the “failure” to project a chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh could hit the party hard.

On the other side, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will be used by the proposed grand alliance to consolidate the Kurmi vote bank.

The proposed “secular" grand alliance would include the SP (Akhilesh faction), Congress, RLD, JD(U), Peace Party, Rashtriya Janta Dal, Sanjay Nishad’s Party, Rajbhar Party and the dissident faction of Apna Dal led by Krishna Patel, mother of Union minister Anupriya Patel.

The Congress, which has been decimated in UP, was eagerly awaiting an alliance with the SP. It’s learnt that nearly 135 seats left by the SP would have to be shared between parties which would form the proposed grand alliance.

Despite talks of seat sharing between the Congress and SP, the main problem areas are the constituencies where both the parties came second in 2012 Assembly polls. Two such constituencies are Banda and Aligarh.

While Congress came second in Aligarh, SP came second in Banda. "All these issues will be ironed out once we decide to join hands," a Congress leader said.