Lucknow: After days of hard bargaining, the Congress sealed a pre-poll alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, pitchforking the combo as a hot favourite in the state Assembly elections slated to begin next month.
According to the deal stitched together in Lucknow, the SP has given Congress 105 seats to contest — there were reports earlier that SP had ruled out giving more than 85 seats to Congress.
Sources said the deal was clinched after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi personally intervened and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, riding high after his success in capturing the SP, agreed to allot more seats to the party.
Akhilesh confirmed the deal at a function to release the SP manifesto for the assembly polls in Lucknow on Sunday. Curiously, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav stayed away from the function. Reports from Lucknow indicate that Akhilesh had sent veteran leader Azam Khan to meet Mulayam, but he refused to attend.
The manifesto promised more expressways besides a new Samajwadi Pension of Rs 1,000 per month to 1 crore people that will be credited to their accounts. He also promised free pressure cooker for poor women besides 50% subsidised travel for women in state roadways buses.
Wrong to suggest lightweights were dealing on behalf of Congress party.Discussion was at highest level- b/w CM (UP),GS I/C & Priyanka Gandhi— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) January 22, 2017
Addressing party workers, Akhilesh took a dig at BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There are parties with no promises. There are parties who came to power with the promise of achche din (good days). It has been three years, but in the name of development, they made us hold the broom, do yoga. Yes, they might announce something in the Budget,” he said.
Hitting out at BSP supremo Mayawati, he said she is only interested in erecting statues. “If some journalist reminds her of the massive Shivaji statue that Maharashtra is building, she will build a bigger statue in UP,” he quipped.
The talks of SP-Congress alliance have been doing the rounds for a few months now and Mulayam had categorically denied having any truck with Congress while Akhilesh had indicated he was in favour of a “grand coalition to take on communal forces.”
According to a pre-poll survey done by Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in July-August, 30% of the respondents said they will vote for SP, as against 27% who preferred BJP. Only 5% said they will vote for Congress, but analysts believe the party could punch above their weight in an alliance with SP, mopping up Muslim votes (18% of the state’s voters).
In the 2012 Assembly elections, Samajwadi Party had scored 29% votes in seats contested winning 224 out of the 401 seats it contested. BJP won 15% votes to get 47 seats while Congress managed to win 28 seats with 13% votes. BSP had notched up 25% votes, but won only 80 of the 403 seats it contested.
Ground reports indicate Akhilesh’s popularity is at an all-time high after he conclusively won a bitter faction war that saw him ejecting father Mulayam as the party’s national president last week.
Sources close to Congress had alleged that a resurgent Akhilesh was negotiating tough and had demanded that Congress will have to give a share of its own seats to Ajit Singh’s RLD, one reason why the talks dragged on. The now on-now off talks had also posed serious questions over the negotiation skills of both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi as well as the ambitions of Akhilesh Yadav.
Sure that this alliance (SP and Cong) will set an example; will strive hard for upliftment of poor & development of state: Raj Babbar, Cong pic.twitter.com/a4fBNhDXCq— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) January 22, 2017
Sources said SP was miffed as Congress chose bureaucrats like Dhiraj Srivastava, a Rajasthan cadre officer and in-charge of grievance cell of Rae Bareli and Amethi, to carry on the negotiations instead of deputing senior leaders who understand the nuances of political deal-making. A shocked Congress watched as SP released seats for five phases, including in the Gandhi family pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli.
However, a breakthrough was achieved when Sonia Gandhi personally chose to intervene in the talks on Saturday evening, convincing Akhilesh to allocate 100-plus seats to the Grand Old Party.
SP and Congress hope that the Grand Alliance will mop up the core OBC votes of Samajwadi besides the 18% Muslim votes. Akhilesh’s image as India’s youngest chief minister will make him a natural choice for youth across caste and class divisions, claim the architects of the alliance.