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SP, Cong join hands, with eye on UP

The first impact of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s endorsement of the nuclear deal is likely to be felt in UP where SP and the Congress — bitter rivals — have joined forces against the ruling BSP for the LS polls, report M Hasan and Saroj Nagi.
Hindustan Times | By M Hasan and Saroj Nagi, Lucknow/delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2008 02:15 AM IST

The first impact of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s endorsement of the nuclear deal is likely to be felt in UP where political compulsions have suddenly brought the SP and the Congress — bitter rivals — to join forces against the ruling BSP for the Lok Sabha polls.

Ajit Singh’s RLD, with considerable presence in western UP, is another possible partner in this joint offensive against Mayawati.

Likely to come together for the first time in the state, the Congress and SP believe it will help them in the parliamentary polls in the state. “There are some political realities all parties have to consider… In view of this, some adjustment is desirable,’’ said Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary incharge of UP, referring to the need to check “communal forces”.

Sources in Delhi said the Congress would set up a mechanism for negotiations, with seat-sharing talks likely to start this month and end by September. Singh is expected to be responsible for working out the state level alliances.

Though the Congress has identified 31 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats where it got around 1 lakh votes, the SP may not be willing to part with more than a dozen.

In Lucknow, SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhury said: “Both parties would benefit from the alliance in the state.”

On his part, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said his party has received “positive signals” from the SP for a tie-up.

While Mulayam’s stakes are very high to ensure his political survival, any increase in the Congress’s tally would help the party in its efforts to come to power again at the Centre.

But the Congress’s desperation to find an anchor is UP is also marked by apprehension. The party is yet to recover from its 1996 pact with the BSP when it contested only 125 seats and left the rest to its partner. Will a tie-up with the SP erode whatever little is left of the organisation, wonder many in the party.

The Congress had got nine seats and 12 per cent votes in UP in 2004 and its hopes of a better performance have risen with the likelihood of riding piggyback on the SP.

The emerging scenario has brought Muslim vote bank politics to the fore. In her attempt to wean away the community from the SP, Mayawati fired her “nuclear-deal-is anti-Muslim” salvo.

Mulayam sought to counter it by flaunting a “deal-is-in-national-interest” certificate from former President APJ Abdul Kalam, whom Muslims hold in high esteem.

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