Leaders in Congress’ Uttar Pradesh unit feel an alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party is the need of the hour for both the parties as they prepare for the crucial 2017 assembly elections but say a respectable formula should be worked out before joining hands.
Many in the two parties are keen on an alliance following an internal assessment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap high-value banknotes had pushed the BJP to the number three position in the state.
The main fight in the state polls – scheduled for February-March – is between the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), they feel.
Although no party leader is ready to speak on record on the issue, most say the Congress should not succumb to any pressure from the ruling party.
“The SP needs an alliance as much as we need it. An alliance will check a division of Muslim votes. Any such alliance will get overwhelming support from the people upset with the BJP in the post-demonetisation scenario. But the Congress should not agree for less than 100 seats,” a senior Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity.
“We want a respectable alliance. An alliance with the BSP would have been better for the Congress. But the BSP has not shown any interest. The SP will have to leave 125 seats for alliance partners. The Congress should have 100 of these seats. The remaining 25 seats may be left for partners like Rashtriya Lok Dal and others,” a leader from Bundelkhand said.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Raj Babbar, however, said he was not aware of any talks for an alliance with the SP.
“There is no contact between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party leadership at any level. But well-wishers of both the Congress and the SP may be discussing this at their own level,” Babbar told Hindustan Times on the telephone.
Another senior party leader said the SP was sending very confusing signals.
“The SP has already announced tickets for some of the seats where the Congress has sitting MLAs. The SP will have to rework its ticket allocation plan if it was serious for an alliance,” the leader said.
The SP leadership also appears divided over the issue of an alliance, he said.
“Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had stated at HT Leadership Summit on December 2 that a Congress-SP alliance would win 300 seats. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, however, has consistently attacked the Congress maintaining an equal distance with it and the BJP. The SP chief had called the BJP ‘liar number 1’ and the Congress ‘liar number 2’ while addressing a rally at Bareilly on December 7,” he added.
UPCC minority department chairperson Siraj Mehandi, however, welcomed the chief minister’s statement favouring an alliance with the Congress.
“Akhilesh Yadav is the first SP leader who has felt the need for an alliance. We welcome his statement and hope that an alliance will be worked out,” Mehandi said.
Others also stressed upon the need of secular forces coming together for an alliance.
“Muslims in UP have same issues and it will be in their interest that secular forces come together,” Abbas Raza Nayyar, the head of the Urdu at Lucknow University, said.
Peace Party president and MLA Mohammad Ayub also said the Congress should take the lead in bringing all the secular parties together for the assembly elections.