Congress, however, has been kept out of the ‘gathbandhan’.

 

LUCKNOW/NEW DELHI: Burying the hatchet that kept them apart for more than two decades, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are said to be inching closer to stitching an alliance against ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh, keeping the Congress out of it.

Highly-placed political sources said on Saturday that the seat-sharing formula between the one-time arch rivals has been sealed after a meeting of SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati in New Delhi late on Friday.

The sources told IANS that so far the Congress had not figured in the discussions for an alliance and that on the table for now were BSP, SP and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in the alliance.

However, there was no official word from both the parties on the alliance talks.

While SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said reports of keeping the Congress out of the alliance were “fictional”, Congress leader P.L. Punia said the party was preparing for elections in Uttar Pradesh saying “coalition is not important”.

The two leaders are said to have decided to equally share 74 of the 80 seats while two seats will be left for the RLD headed by Ajit Singh and two kept “in reserve for last-minute political grasshoppers”.

The alliance will also keep out of the contest in Rae Bareilly and Amethi, seats held by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. In 2014 too, the two parties had not fielded any candidates on these two seats.

With the Congress setting eyes on a large “share of the pie”, especially after tasting recent electoral successes in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the SP-BSP combine, sources say, was “not too excited about the assimilation of the Congress in the opposition space”.

Moreover, with a large chunk of their vote banks being common, the two regional payers don’t seem to be too enthused with the Congress being under the ‘gathbandhan’ umbrella, a senior leader of the SP said.

He added that the Congress too was not okay with the idea of settling for anything less than 20 seats, something which seems impossible.

Congress leaders like Punia (who delivered Chhattisgarh to the Congress as its state in-charge) and UPCC chief Raj Babbar are reportedly of the view that the Congress should not “be sheepish in alliance negotiations any more” and should seek its pound of flesh.

They cite the example of 2009 when the Congress romped home with 22 Lok Sabha seats in UP, surprising many prophets of doom.

They also say that with Rahul Gandhi getting more “combative, direct and effective” in taking on the Modi juggernaut, the Congress stood better chances in going alone!

Not surprisingly, both the SP and BSP have given enough indications of not continuing their dalliance with the grand old party any longer. IANS

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