The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have offered a paltry five seats to the Congress for a grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh, sources told The Sunday Guardian. Sources in SP and BSP said that the two parties have, however, roped in Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal into their fold, promising to reserve eight to 10 seats for the RLD, which has a considerable influence in UP’s western pockets, courtesy the power it wields among the Jats.
Sources in the Congress claimed that it would not consider an alliance unless given 15 seats to contest and that the same has been communicated to Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. The sources revealed that the high command fears any compromise would only lead to further erosion of its cadre strength in the state that has 80 seats in the Lok Sabha, 73 of which are currently held by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies.
“The seat-sharing, as of now, remains unresolved. We are clear that we would not contest on less than 15 seats, as this would hit the morale of our cadre, who are yet to recover from the Assembly election loss of February-March 2017, when an alliance with the SP led to Congress’ decline in both vote percentage and the number of seats won,” a source in the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, who is also a national coordinator of the Congress, told this newspaper.
He, however, said that the Congress is open to a 2017 like arrangement when it contested 105 of UP’s 403 Assembly seats, but many candidates were, in reality, Samajwadis contesting on its symbol. “We are open to accommodating SP candidates who wish to contest from the constituencies allotted to us,” the source quoted said.
However, sources in the SP and BSP said that Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, both former Chief Ministers of the state, were not in favour of placating the Congress at their expense, as the national party’s upper caste votes had not transferred to the SP in last year’s Assembly elections in UP.
“There is a vote transferability issue. The SP had hoped that the alliance with Congress would help it dominate at the hustings. But the election results confirmed that the Congress’ upper caste votes rejected the alliance,” a SP source said.
A UP Congress leader said that the vote tranferability issue was haunting the party’s national leaders also. The Congress is virtually staring at extinction in both UP and Bihar, states that send a total 120 seats to the Lok Sabha.
“Rahul Gandhi and other AICC leaders are of the opinion that had we contested alone in 2017, our vote share would have remained intact. Our internal assessment is that any tie-up with the SP or BSP would mean the upper castes would support the BJP en bloc. That would be dangerous. If the BJP is able to secure the upper castes and the non-Yadav OBCs en bloc, it will be comfortably placed to win in most constituencies,” the UP Congress leader said.
He revealed that the high command was of the opinion that the party should rather have a tactical understanding with the SP and BSP in some constituencies and fight the rest of the seats on its own.
On the question of Varanasi, currently held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, top sources in the AICC revealed that the SP and BSP have agreed to back the Congress candidate.
Ajai Rai, former Congress MLA from Pindra in Varanasi and Rajesh Mishra, who had contested from South Varanasi in last year’s Assembly elections, are the top contenders against PM Modi, AICC sources said.
Sources in UP Congress added that the choice of the local satraps is a calculated one, with the Congress and the regional parties wanting to turn Varanasi into an insider vs outsider battle.
The Congress-SP had tried this formula unsuccessfully in UP in 2017.