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Congress, BSP work on ironing out seat-sharing formula in MP, Chhattisgarh

A Congress functionary said while the party cannot afford to accept the BSP’s demands because it has “strong candidates”, both parties will try and sort out the issue and firm up an alliance soon.

Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018 Updated: Sep 14, 2018 06:08 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,BSP,Madhya Pradesh
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati and Congress president Rahul Gandhi during the swearing-in ceremony of JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Bengaluru, in May 2018.(PTI)

The Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are trying to resolve the deadlock over the sharing of seats in the upcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

A senior Congress functionary familiar with the developments said the BSP has been demanding 50 seats in Madhya Pradesh and 15 in Chhattisgarh.

The Congress is willing to give 20-22 seats in Madhya Pradesh and seven to nine in Chhattisgarh, but is keen to have a seat-sharing agreement with the BSP to oust the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has ruled both states for the past 15 years.

Dalits account for more than 15% of Madhya Pradesh’s 75 million-population and 11.6% of Chattisgharh’s 26 million, making the Congress very interested in a partnership with the BSP.

The BSP contested 227 out of 230 seats in the 201]3 elections in MP, won four, and ended up with vote share of 6.29%. That’s a significant vote share. The Congress won 58 seats with a share of 36.38% and the BJP 165 seats with a share of 44.88%.

In Chattisgarh, the BSP fought in all the 90 seats in the 2013 election, winning one and ending up with a vote share of 4.27%. The Congress won 39 seats with a vote share of 43.33%, and the BJP 49 seats with a share of 54.44%. These numbers may need to be seen differently now because Ajit Jogi, a former Congress leader, formed a separate party in 2016, and is widely considered to be in a position to play spoiler in the state.

The Congress functionary said while the party cannot afford to accept the BSP’s demands because it has “strong candidates” and doing this “would cause heartburn” and force people to “work against the party”, both parties will try and sort out the issue and firm up an alliance soon.

BSP leaders refused to come on record on the issue, saying the final call on the alliance would be taken by BSP chief Mayawati.

BSP founder Kanshi Ram had fought his first Lok Sabha election from Janjgir-Champa, a district in the tribal-dominated state of Chattisgarh where the party has around 40% Satnami vote.

The negotiations between the two parties have also been strained by the BSP’s demand that the alliance extend to Rajasthan, a state where the Congress believes it has a limited presence.

Political observers are of the view that the onus is on the BSP as the Congress has been a major player directly contesting the BJP in both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. “There has to be reasonable give and take from the sides. All this talk of demands is mere posturing before the leaders of the two parties formally sit to seal the deal,” said Delhi-based political analyst Balveer Arora.

“The Congress is a key player in both the states and the BSP’s main strength is in Uttar Pradesh. Its presence in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is not that significant. It is important for both the parties to understand the necessity of having an alliance,” he added.

First Published: Sep 13, 2018 23:29 IST