Two days after the Congress declared the tie-up with the ruling Samajwadi Party in UP a done deal, the alliance talks were in a deadlock on Friday with two sides squabbling over the share of seats.
The SP dealt a blow to the coalition talks when it came out with a list of candidates for 208 seats, including nine held by the Congress, voting for which will be held in the first three phases, beginning February 11.
What upset the Congress more was the SP’s plan to field candidates in Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli and Rahul’s Amethi Lok Sabha segments, sources said.
The Congress was looking at least 120 seats in the state. The SP offered 115 seats to be shared with other parties, which left the Congress with only 80 seats, sources said. The Uttar Pradesh assembly has a strength of 403.
An angry Congress termed the move “unfortunate” and called an emergency meeting of senior leaders in Delhi. But by evening, the party, a bit player in the country’s most populous state, was saying all was not lost.
“It appears to be only a muscle-flexing exercise. Talks are still in progress. Both sides are in touch with each other,” a senior Congress leader said in Lucknow.
In Delhi, the Congress’s screening committee met to shortlist names for the first two phases. Voting will held for 73 seats on February 11, 67 constituencies will go to the polls in the second phase on February 15. Polling will be held in seven phases, result declared on March 11.
Congress general secretary in-charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad, who on January 17 had announced the alliance, briefed party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Chief minister and SP president Akhilesh Yadav seems to have accommodated some of his father, Mulayam Singh’s, picks in the list which also has 57 Muslim candidates.
Mulayam’s younger brother Shivpal, who was locked in a bitter power struggle with Akhilesh, is among the candidates.
But, the SP is not willing to give Amethi or Lucknow Cantonment seats to the Congress. Mulayam’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav is the Lucknow Cantonment candidate.
Earlier in the day, SP vice-president Kironmoy Nanda said negotiations with the Congress had “failed” but also added the party could withdraw candidates from seats held by the Congress.
However, party colleague and Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agarwal said Nanda’s comments were “his personal opinion” and Akhilesh would have the final word on the alliance.
The Congress, too, put the onus on the chief minister.
“Alliance with SP was concluded in talks with Akhilesh Yadav. We will wait for further talks on the issue between Azad and Akhilesh,” party’s senior spokesperson Ajay Maken said.
Azad is expected to meet Akhilesh on Saturday, sources said. Party’s Uttar Pradesh chief Raj Babbar, who spent the day in Lucknow, left for Delhi in the evening to attend a poll panel meeting on Saturday.
The SP list also includes senior minister Azam Khan’s son Abdullah and Agarwal’s son Nitin. Several other Mulayam and Shivpal loyalists, too, have been fielded by Akhilesh, now firmly in control of the party after months of a bruising family battle.
The state could see another alliance. After it was spurned by the SP, the Rashtriya Lok Dal is planning to lead a group of 15 smaller parties. The Congress, however, is keen on RLD and other parties to be part of the coalition with the SP.