Not Just Words, Political Actions Too Speak of Possible SP-Cong Bonhomie
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi addresses farmers at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar after wrapping-up a month-long tour of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, on October 6, 2016. (FILE PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)
Lucknow: Just a day ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed visit to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has sparked off political speculation with his soft endorsement of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's 'khoon ki dalali' remark.
“If he has said something, he must have given it much thought. He must have some information about it,” Akhilesh said on Monday when asked about Rahul's remarks against the PM.
This left many wondering whether it was just a casual observation from the mild-mannered Akhilesh or a political overture ahead of the crucial assembly polls early next year.
If recent actions on the political turf of Uttar Pradesh are any indication, it was not a casual comment but a loaded political statement on the part of the young leader who has, off late, been battling his own father and uncle for a say in his party's electoral game plan.
Speculation about a possible electoral understanding between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress are not new. Though leaders on both sides have been officially denying it, there had been a clear 'go soft' approach. It first started with Rahul Gandhi describing Akhilesh as a “good man” in July this year. This personal warmth was also evident during the month-long Kisan Yatra undertaken by Rahul across the state last month. It was clearly evident that more than the Samajwadi Party government, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP which was on Rahul's hit-list.
The yatra, which was initiated in the backdrop of Congress's electoral punch line “27 Saal UP Behal”, did not reach Samajwadi Party's stronghold of Kannauj and Etawah. Congress MLA and spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh, however, counters the observation that the SP government's failures were not made an issue.
"It's not just the Congress and SP but even others who are getting more and more concerned about Modi's style of politics. Hence, people are unanimous in their criticism of it," he says.
Singh also rejects suggestions that this solidarity is a precursor to some sort of election-related political understanding between the Congress and the SP. "Akhilesh's support for Rahul Gandhi's comment should not be read in that sense. Congress is not looking forward to any alliance in UP polls," he says.
But sources within both parties say senior leaders on both sides are open to the possibility of some sort of electoral understanding and that it is already being considered. Remember this statement from SP's newly appointed state president Shivpal Yadav: "Lohiyawadis and Gandhivadis, both can work together."
Deepak Mishra, the SP spokesperson who is considered close to the party's top leader, endorses this point of view. "The Samajwadi Party has always believed that those believing in Lohia's socialist ideology and those believing in Gandhi-Nehru can work together to fight communalism," he says, quickly adding that agreeing to this fundamental principle should be read as an alliance
Mishra also says his party endorses Akhilesh's comment on Rahul saying it should be seen as a "comment from a humble politician who does not believe in personal attacks".
Leaders on either side may not open up further, but one thing is certain — the infighting in the SP may lead to new political possibilities. A section in the party is now strongly in favour of an electoral understanding with the Congress.
None, however, is in a hurry as elections are still a few months away.
As a senior leader in the Samajwadi Party says: "We are keeping an eye on political developments. Nothing can be ruled out, especially with an aggressive BJP round the corner and BSP chief Mayawati desperately trying to woo Muslim voters. 2017 polls will be a semi-final for the 2019 general elections."