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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

BSP demand ‘unrealistic’, not tying up won’t hurt Congress prospects: Kamal Nath

Congress leader Kamal Nath said BSP is demanding seating which they had never won and had vote share of 1,000 to 4,000 votes in the last assembly elections.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2018 00:09 IST
Punya Priya Mitra and Saubhadra Chatterji
Punya Priya Mitra and Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, Bhopla/New Delhi
Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath during the party's state management committee meeting, in Bhopal on July 11.
Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath during the party's state management committee meeting, in Bhopal on July 11.(PTI File Photo)

A day after Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati ruled out an alliance with the Congress in the coming assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, MP Congress president Kamal Nath said the lack of a tie-up wouldn’t harm his party’s prospects in the former state and argued that the BSP had unrealistic seat-sharing expectations.

Nath said the BSP wanted to field candidates in 50 out of the 230 assembly seats in MP which, together with Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and possibly Telangana, faces assembly polls before this year-end, a demand he described as unrealistic.

Explaining why the seat-sharing talks broke down, Nath told reporters in Bhopal: “They were demanding seating which they had never won and had vote share of 1,000 to 4,000 votes in the last assembly elections. Interestingly, they were not demanding seats where they had vote share of 25,000-30,000 votes,” Nath said.

Mayawati’s decision dealt a potential setback to efforts for Opposition unity ahead of the state polls leading up to next year’s general election. On top of her decision to ally with Ajit Jogi’s Janta Congress in Chhattisgarh, her snub to the Congress cast a shadow on efforts to forge a Mahagatbandhan (grand alliance) of opposition parties, including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and the Congress, in the Lok Sabha elections from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Uttar Pradesh.

Senior Congress leaders based in New Delhi said the Congress couldn’t afford to give 50 seats to an ally that had an insignificant presence in Madhya Pradesh. They also said the BSP was demanding a large number of seats in one particular region of MP that is a stronghold of the Congress. “We took a conscious decision last month not to pursue the alliance in the wake of this absurd demand,” said a senior Congress strategist on condition of anonymity.

The development comes at a time the Congress has started consultations with its state unit chiefs to explore alliances for the 2019 elections. At the party’s war room in Gurdwara Rakabganj Road in New Delhi, Congress leaders are holding regular meetings with state unit heads.

The Congress central leadership, however, is hopeful that what happened in MP won’t affect the possibility of a seat-sharing pact in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha polls. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress leadership is still open to a pact with the Samajwadi Party, which has demanded 10 seats in MP, said another Congress official.

Even after Mayawati declared candidates for 22 seats in Madhya Pradesh on September 20, Nath had insisted that the Congress was still in talks with the BSP over a pre-poll alliance.

“It (lack of alliance with BSP) won’t have any impact,” he said on Thursday. “The people are wise and they understand everything”. He chose not to explain the context of his remarks.

In the same breath, Nath also said the doors of the Congress were still open as the party did not want a division of votes that would benefit the BJP. “The possibility (of an alliance) is still there. Our doors are still open (to BSP). We are in talks with SP over seat-sharing and I had a talk with (SP president) Akhilesh Yadav four days back in this regard.”

Congress politicians said that according to an internal analysis, had the party agreed to Mayawati’s demand, the BJP would have benefitted the most. “Of the 50 seats Mayawati was demanding, there are 10 which BSP had won in 2003, 2008, or 2013 elections and they had a realistic chance. Had we agreed to her demands, it would have meant gifting 40 seats to the BJP,” another Congress leader who did not wish to be named. “It was this unrealistic demand that made a section of Congress leaders suspect that Mayawatiji was more interested in helping the BJP. These leaders believe that Mayawati is under pressure from the BJP due to various cases against her, and that is why talks with BSP were not really going forward,” he said.

Answering a query on Mayawati blaming senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh for the breakdown in talks, Nath said, “Mayawati had to blame someone so she blamed Digvijayaji”.

BSP state president Pradeep Kumar Ahirwar said, “The Congress had been spreading this rumour that we were in talks even after (candidates for) 22 seats were declared in MP by our party. Mayawatiji had told us long ago to be prepared to contest 230 seats”.

First Published: Oct 05, 2018 00:03 IST

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