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Congress, SP grow apart over UP seats

The Congress’s efforts to hammer out a seat-sharing arrangement with the SP in Uttar Pradesh is turning out to be a painful exercise, with both the sides often engaged in a war of words.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2009 00:03 IST
Saroj Nagi

The Congress’s efforts to hammer out a seat-sharing arrangement with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh is turning out to be a painful exercise, with both the sides often engaged in a war of words.

“Instead of signalling the unity of the two parties for the Lok Sabha polls in UP, the atmosphere is getting increasingly bitter and vitiated,” said a Congress functionary who did not want to be named.

The latest example of the growing bitterness was SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s charge that the Congress was trying to put him behind bars. “The government, which we have supported during the height of the Indo-US nuclear deal imbroglio, is now trying to send me to jail with the CBI’s help,” he said on Friday. “The CBI is preparing fake documents to frame me (in the disproportionate assets case).”

Unhappy with the SP for associating with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh — the man who was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was demolished — the Congress rejected Mulayam’s charge. “The UPA’s track record shows that we don’t
use government agencies for political vendetta,” said spokesman Manish Tewari.

“Politics and the course of justice are two separate parallel tracks.”

The differences between the parties seem to have corroded the spirit of the alliance.

“With the bitterness percolating to the ground level, we just don’t know how to surmount this,” said another leader, requesting anonymity.

Six months after the first round of talks, several leaders in the party even wonder about the fate of the alliance –unless, of course, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam step in to bridge the growing gap. “The talks are deadlocked at present,” said a Congress leader.

To add to the Congress’s discomfiture, the SP unilaterally announced its candidates for 61 parliamentary seats in UP, leaving only 19 seats for negotiations.

The Congress has reportedly been seeking an understanding on 25 seats while the Samajwadi Party was prepared to consider just about a dozen — or at best bargain for up to 19.

There was also a deadlock on about eight seats, including Rampur and Pratapgarh, claimed by both parties. The Congress’s proposal for “friendly contests” on such seats has been rejected by the Samajwadi Party.