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Sonia, Rahul interact with UP Cong leaders

Though Sonia and Rahul have been interacting separately with the UP leaders, this is the first time the two are meeting them together, reports Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2007 04:30 IST
Saroj Nagi

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi took stock of the party's preparations for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday even as the party kept its options open for seat sharing talks with smaller formations like Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and VP Singh-backed Jan Morcha.

The marathon session, spread over two sittings, saw senior leaders Ashok Gehlot, AICC general secretary in charge of UP, state unit chief Salman Khurshid, Rashid Alvi and Rajeshpati Tripathi (both zonal in charges) apprising Sonia about the party's prospects in western UP, Saharanpur-Meerut and Jhansi-Chitrakut divisions.

"There will be similar exercises with regard to the other regions of the state," Gehlot said, tight-lipped about the deliberations. Sonia had divided the state into eight zones, entrusting each zone to one leader to ensure focused attention.

Though Sonia and Rahul have been interacting separately with the UP leaders, this is the first time the two are meeting them together.

According to Congress leaders from the state, there are three major issues that need to be addressed as the party scours for a formula that would help it increase its seats in the assembly where it started off with 32 in 2002 but is now left with only 15 after desertions and splits.

The first is to win back some of its traditional upper caste-Muslim-Dalit supporters who shifted to the BJP, the SP and the BSP. But the Gorakhpur riots, that threaten to polarise the society, may hurt the Congress' efforts to woo the community by using the Sachar panel report and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's emphasis on a "fair share" for Muslims.

The second is its quest for allies. Though leaders like Gehlot are keen that the Congress contest the elections on its own, the other view is that the party should go for alliances in order to increase its tally.

Even though Ajit Singh has long been seen as a force in western UP, the party's initial feedback from workers is that the RLD, which walked out of the Mulayam Singh government recently, may turn out to be a liability. But as he still retains some strength in the region, a tie up could fetch the Congress some seats in the belt has 42 assembly segments.

And the third is to tone up the organisation which has been in a limbo as the party has been out of power for over two decades in the state.

In the latest issue of the party mouthpiece "Congress Sandesh" Sonia underlined the need to set the house in order in the key state which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha and, in a reference to the Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur elections, she urged party workers to put personal egos aside and work unitedly without which victory was not possible.

Email Saroj Nagi: snagi@hindustantimes.com