The Congress and the Samajwadi Party are working on a “compromise formula” to resolve stalled alliance talks ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh next month.
Discussions on a pre-poll alliance hit a roadblock after the SP refused to concede more than 60 seats to the Congress, which had been demanding 100-120 seats.
Talks were also hurt by a raging internal struggle in the SP for party control between chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav. Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has sided with Shivpal but a majority of party legislators and office bearers are said to support the CM.
The SP was willing to spare the 28 constituencies the Congress won in 2012 apart from 31 seats on which it came second. The SP leadership had then asked the Congress to spell out a “valid reason” why it should be given more than 60 seats.
The Congress argued that though it could manage to win only 28 seats its cadre existed in almost all the 75 districts of the country’s most populous and politically important state.
However, the tough stand by the SP prompted the Congress to scale down its demand and was willing to consider the offer of 70 seats.
Besides the Congress’ internal poll assessment of the ground situation as of now is not encouraging with prospects of it retaining even the 2012 figure appearing bleak if it goes alone in the elections.
With Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati ruling out a tie-up with any party, the SP was the obvious choice for the Congress, which has been reduced to margins in UP.
Akhilesh has repeatedly said an alliance with the Congress will enable the combination to win more than 300 of the total of 403 seats. Backchannel talks are now on with SP leaders close to Akhilesh.
To expedite the alliance talks, the Congress has asked the SP to leave aside 108 seats out of which it will accommodate Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh, the Janata Dal (United) and the Krishna Patel faction of the Apna Dal.
While the RLD is yet to come on board, it remains to be seen if the SP will accept the new formula.
But both the SP and the Congress are of the considered view that a pact could consolidate the Muslim-Yadav vote bank and keep both the BSP and BJP at bay. A section of upper castes – wooed by the Congress with its Brahmin CM pick -- might also be swayed by the alliance.
And for a pre-poll alliance, the Congress will prefer Akhilesh to Mulayam. It is no secret that the Congress is wary of Mulayam’s “wavering” moves. The other factor is the apparent bonhomie between Akhilesh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The two are said to share a good rapport and both have often praised each other on different occasions.