With the filing of nominations over for the seventh and final phase of Uttar Pradesh elections, it stands clear that several Samajwadi Party candidates are fighting on Congress tickets. A source close to one of the top-most Congress leaders confirmed this to The Sunday Guardian, putting the number of such SP undercover candidates to 15. The highly-placed source admitted that Samad Ansari, Chinta Yadav and Angad Chaudhary are the SP candidates masquerading under the Congress’ “hand” symbol. Independent sources, however, claim that the number of SP-turned-Congress candidates could be between 20 and 22.
This reporter was able to get at least one Congress leader to admit on record that his candidature was dropped at the last minute to accommodate a Samajwadi Party candidate on a seat allotted to the grand old party under the alliance. “Varanasi North seat hamara hi tha… Lekin waha se Samajwadi Party ke candidate ko jagah mil gayi (The Varanasi North seat was likely to be allotted to me, but this did not happen, as a Samajwadi Party candidate was chosen instead),” rued Zafarullah Zafar, a well-known young Turk of the Congress from Varanasi, who also is the president of the Youth Congress there. He was largely being seen as a favourite for the seat after the SP agreed to let the Congress contest from Varanasi North.
When asked whether Samad Ansari was originally from the Samajwadi Party and had taken membership of the Congress only for the purpose of fighting the elections on the hand symbol, Zafar said yes. “They sidelined a PhD holder candidate for a high school pass,” Zafar, a doctorate in journalism, said in a crestfallen tone.
But he quickly added that there was no dissension over this and the Congress cadre stands united to work for the alliance’s success. “Look at the spirit. I myself accompanied him (Ansari) for the filing of nomination,” Zafar told this newspaper over phone from Varanasi.
Samad Ansari has had several years of association with the Samajwadi Party and he was, in fact, the SP MLA from the Varanasi North seat during 2007-2012. He is not even distantly linked to the Congress.
Another example to cite is the reserved constituency of Kadipur (SC) where Angad Chaudhary is the Congress candidate. This seat was won in the 2012 Assembly elections by Angad’s father Ramchandra Chaudhary on an SP ticket. The Chaudhary family has decades of allegiance to SP and are totally alien to the Congress rank and file.
Chinta Yadav, whom the Congress has fielded from Caimpiyarganj, had unsuccessfully contested the elections in 2012 on an SP ticket from the same constituency.
A fourth case is of Sanjay Pandey, son of senior SP leader and former minister Rajaram Pandey. Sanjay Pandey too hurriedly switched over to the Congress to contest from his father’s erstwhile constituency Vishwanathganj. Rajaram Pandey had won the seat in 2012 for the SP, but he died as an incumbent due to a cardiac arrest in November 2013. In the ensuing bypolls in 2014, SP had, in fact, declared Sanjay as its candidate, but he lost to the Apna Dal.
Although the SP-Congress alliance has been the centre of media glare, insiders in Congress are not too happy with either the choice of seats left for the national party or the embarrassing arrangements such as accommodating a whole herd of unknown SP leaders into their fold. Unlike the Bihar arrangement in 2015, where the Congress managed to bag a good number of winnable constituencies by playing the “balancing factor” between the warring Rashtriya Janata Dal led by Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), in Uttar Pradesh the party is gradually realising the deal was not that fair.
A Congress war-room source told this newspaper that they have been given as many as 47 seats that are “useless”. The war-room insider said that the Congress has no hopes in these seats and even if the SP itself had contested them, they would have finished a distant third or fourth. This essentially brings down the Congress’ 105 seats’ in the alliance to barely 60. Even though, the Congress bagged 105 eventually, the war-room insider said that 47 were too difficult to win.
The war-room insider added that despite the hype surrounding the alliance, the Congress could hope to win 35 seats only. However, this figure was strongly contested by the source close to a top Congress leader (quoted in the beginning) who said that the party was definitely winning 50 seats, and may be a few more. Whatever be the final outcome, both sources said the top leadership was not at ease with the fact that several of the likely winners may be from the SP masqueraders.
PRIYANKA, DIMPLE WILL CAMPAIGN TOGETHER
In information available exclusively to this newspaper, Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be finally making her appearance in poll bound Uttar Pradesh and will campaign on 20 February in Rae Bareli. Sonia Gandhi has been missing from action for the past many months, after she fell ill midway during a roadshow in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi.
A highly-placed source in the Congress told The Sunday Guardian that Sonia Gandhi has finally given her nod to do a few campaign rallies and public meetings. “She is likely to campaign in Rae Bareli on 20 February, unless there are any last minute changes of plan,” the source told this newspaper. When asked if she would campaign beyond Amethi and Rae Bareli or in eastern UP, which is going to polls in the sixth and the seventh phases, the source said this was not decided.
“As of now there is not much clarity whether she will even do more rallies in Rae Bareli or just campaign for one day there. That depends,” the source left the sentence hanging. He confirmed that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who did a rally in Rae Bareli on Friday, will make more public appearances, although within the family pocket boroughs Amethi and Rae Bareli.
The source said that speculation about Priyanka-Dimple (Dimple Yadav, wife of UP CM Akhilesh Yadav) joint campaigns was true: “The two of them will campaign together. These are not mere rumours. We have definitely such plans in the anvil and most probably they will start the joint campaign as soon as this week (the week starting 20 February).”
When asked whether the joint rallies would be spread across UP, the source said the logistics would be decided in a meeting on Sunday, 19 February. “There is a meeting on Sunday. The final call on the Priyanka-Dimple rallies will be taken on Sunday,” he said.