SP and BSP have offered only a paltry five-seat deal to the Congress out of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats.
The Congress has prepared a list of 12 “non-negotiable” seats in Uttar Pradesh and sent word to Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati that their offer of a peripheral space in a prospective grand alliance against the BJP is not acceptable to it, sources told The Sunday Guardian.
According to top sources in the UP Congress Committee, the party has begun preparing for elections in Varanasi, Kanpur, Moradabad, Maharajganj, Sultanpur, Allahabad, Pratapgarh, Kushinagar, Firozabad and Mirzapur apart from Amethi and Raebareli, Gandhi family pocket boroughs that are represented by party president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi, respectively.
The sources said that the party high command is close to finalising candidates in these 12 constituencies and unless the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party show flexibility in terms of seat sharing, it would contest all of UP’s 80 Lok Sabha seats alone.
Most of these seats, said sources and some local reporters, have a sizeable Muslim population and if the Congress contests against a BSP or SP candidate, the division of the minority votes would immensely benefit the BJP, which rules the state and has currently 71 MPs.
A source in the AICC, who spoke to this reporter, said that the party high command is “upset” with Akhilesh and Mayawati’s attitude in back-channel seat-sharing talks that have been held so far.
“Both Akhilesh and Mayawati have been pressuring the Congress to accept a five seats’ deal. Barring 2014, we have been winning nearly 10 seats and finishing a close second in another 10 seats. In 2009, we won 21 seats. Why would we accept only five seats?” a UP Congress Committee member, who was part of the delegation that recently met SP and BSP representatives for seat sharing talks, told this newspaper.
This UP Congress leader further said that the SP and BSP have in the recent time adopted a belligerent note against the Congress, hinting that they would field strong candidates in Amethi and Raebareli and spoil the Gandhis’ chances in their own constituencies, which the BJP is trying hard to win.
“The SP and BSP have been indicating that we cannot even win Amethi and Raebareli on our own, and if we do not agree to a five seats offer in the grand alliance, they would make our position untenable in these two constituencies,” the source told this reporter.
But the high command is confident that it would sail through in Amethi, not giving much weight to the fact that BJP’s Smriti Irani had reduced Rahul Gandhi’s winning margin from 3.7 lakh votes in 2009 to 1.07 lakh in 2014, and that the Congress has since lost all four Assembly seats in Amethi.
The Congress believes that by cementing its base amongst the Brahmins and Muslims, it can comfortably win the 12 seats it has identified.
The party also feels that its absence from the grand alliance would hurt the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party more than it would hurt it.
“Our position is strong in 12 seats. We may win eight to 10 of them riding on the Muslim-Brahmin factor. It is the SP and BSP that would be humbled in most constituencies if the Opposition is divided,” said an AICC source, confirming that the Congress may go-it-alone in the state.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Bihar, the Congress’ state leaders are getting impatient over the long delay in appointing a Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president. Sources said that the cadre is demoralised.
“The cadre doesn’t know who hold the reins in the state. We don’t know how many seats we may get to contest. We don’t know in which regions we should start work. Our cadre is disillusioned and so are we,” said a BPCC leader, adding that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United has been trying to poach its influential MLAs and the confusion within the Congress rank is working to its advantage. The AICC has recently deputed four secretaries to the state—Kishori Lal Sharma, Virendra Singh Rathore, Rajesh Lilothia and Alpesh Thakor. Earlier, Gujarat based leader Shaktisinh Gohil was made the election in-charge. The post of the BPCC president has been vacant for over a year. Kaukab Quadri is serving as the acting chief.