Poll alliance sealed, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav are now expected to woo voters together in the country’s most populous state where voting opens on February 11.
The two young leaders were expected to address joint public meetings, Congress sources said in Delhi on Monday, a day after the party sealed its alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
It would be first time that leaders of the two parties, who have been bitter rivals, would be seen together, sharing a public platform.
Uttar Pradesh will vote for its 403-member assembly in seven phases.
The joint rallies were not only aimed at winning support but also sending a signal that the alliance was for real and the two parties were serious about working together, sources said.
With first rounds of polling barely three weeks away, Yadav will launch his campaign from Sultanpur on Tuesday.
Gandhi will shift the focus back on Uttar Pradesh after his election tours of Punjab and Goa, which go to the polls on February 4.
Gandhi toured UP for almost a month on a “kisan yatra”, highlighting farmer distress. He travelled 3,438km, covering 48 districts and 141 assembly constituencies.
The dates for the joint campaign would be finalised soon, a Congress leader said.
Firmly in control as the SP president after months of a bitter family feud, Yadav’s would now concentrate on campaigning.
“The CM would be addressing two rallies, one in Sultanpur on Tuesday and another one in Lakhimpur on Wednesday,” party spokersperson Rajendra Chowdhary said.
Yadav, however, will fly solo.
“Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) will also campaign for the party, his itinerary is being drawn up and will be released soon,” Chowdhary said.
Mulayam Singh, who was ousted as the party chief by Akhilesh Yadav on the New Year’s Day, on Sunday stayed away from the function in which the party’s manifesto was released.
In keeping with Yadav’s theme of development, the SP campaign would highlight his government’s achievements, with special emphasis on young voters. The party even has a poll song -- Kaam bolta hai (work speaks for itself).
The two parties would soon discuss the campaign strategy, Congress leader and party’s UP in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
“Winning the election and forming the government are not the only aim of the two parties. Our main motto is to keep the communal forces at bay and maintain peace in the state,” he said.
Azad and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel had on Sunday credited Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for the tie-up after the talks between the two parties hit a rough patch over seat sharing.
But on Monday, the party sought to downplay reports of Priyanka joining active politics. “As far as the tie-up is concerned, a specific responsibility was assigned by Rahul Gandhi to Priyanka Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad. They have played that role in stitching up the alliance. Where is the question of any speculation?” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said when asked about Priyanka’s plans.
He said Priyanka would confine herself to the Gandhi pocket boroughs of Rae Bareli and Amethi “despite demand from crores of Congress workers to come and work alongside Rahul Gandhi”.
“We have respected her decision to restrict her role to the two parliamentary seats and also her privacy,” Surjewala said. Rae Bareli and Amethi together account for 10 assembly seats.