The focus is now shifting towards New Delhi for the Congress’ likely alliance with the Samajwadi Party for the 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh with the grand old party’s Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) giving a final shape to probable candidates for all the 403 seats.
The SP is in the middle of an intense power struggle with Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav on one side and his son Akhilesh Yadav and cousin Ram Gopal Yadav on the other. Both factions have been staking claim to the party name and the symbol, asserting majority support.
The Election Commission has given both the sides time till January 9 to submit proof of their legislative support.
As nominations for the first phase of polling will begin on January 17, the unfolding developments in the coming week will be crucial to both the parties. The seven-phase staggered elections in Uttar Pradesh will begin on February 11.
The Congress’s central leadership hopes that an alliance with Akhilesh could be formalised soon and a tie-up would help both parties.
“No possibility can be ruled out. But we need to do our work. If there is any truth in this, we all will come to know about it in the next few days,” Sheila Dikshit, Congress’ chief ministerial candidate, said over the phone from New Delhi.
Dikshit was referring to the state poll committee’s meeting being held in Lucknow to make recommendations about probable candidates on all the assembly seats. She too attended the first two days of the PEC meeting last week.
A senior party leader said the party was concerned about the feud in the ruling party’s first family and it would not like to be the cause of widening differences between the two factions.
“Senior party leaders may discuss the seat-sharing issue with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in the next few days,” the leader said.
Akhilesh has already shown his inclination towards an alliance by saying the alliance with the Congress will win more than 300 seats.
“Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has also met the party MLAs. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have taken feedback from the party leaders about the alliance and an appropriate decision will be taken once the leaders of both the parties meet in the coming days,” the leader added.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Raj Babbar is presiding over the PEC meeting in Lucknow.
Babbar said he had instructions from the party leadership about the PEC to shortlist candidates for all the 403 seats.
“We are doing our work and making preparation for all the 403 seats. We will see if anything else is decided keeping in view the party’s strategy,” Babbar said.
Mulayam Singh Yadav had walked out of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance before the 2015 Bihar elections following differences over the number of seats given to his party to contest. The anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition won the polls.
The national party has been relegated to the state’s political margins after being voted out of power in 1989.