In Uttar Pradesh, Congress readies Plan B if it has to go it alone in Lok Sabha polls
Upbeat over its electoral victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Congress has started preparations in Uttar Pradesh in case it has to go it alone in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
A senior Congress functionary familiar with the developments said the party has to be ready for any “eventuality” in case it does not become a part of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance in the state. Both the BSP and the SP have thus far been quiet about partnering with the Congress. They also stayed away from a December 10 meeting of opposition parties.
The BSP is holding a meeting in Lucknow on January 15, Mayawati’s 63rd birthday, to which it has invited several potential allies. As of now, the Congress isn’t one of them. The Congress will soon hold meetings at various levels and start the process of identifying potential candidates for UP, which sends the highest number of representatives, 80, to the 543-member Lok Sabha.
The victories in the Hindi heartland states has buoyed the Congress and galvanised its cadre across the country. “We are already in the poll mode and have started preparations for the 2019 polls,” said Prakash Joshi, All India Congress Committee secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh.
He said the party has conducted booth-level conventions in most of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies and the process of identifying candidates will also start soon.
“The decision on whether to be a part of the grand alliance or not will be taken by the party high command but as an organisation we have to be ready to face any eventuality and any challenge,” Joshi said.
State Congress leaders have suggested to the central leadership that the BSP-SP combine might not offer too many seats to the party and suggested keeping a Plan B ready. Though there have been no formal talks with the BSP or the SP, the buzz is that the two parties might offer just two seats, Amethi and Rae Bareli, to the Congress. While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi represents Amethi, his mother and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi is a Lok Sabha member from Rae Bareli.
A BSP leader refused to comment on the matter, but said that the Congress “deserves what they sowed” in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Abdul Hafiz Gandhi, spokesperson of the SP, said: “As of now, it’s early to comment on the alliance formation. We believe in forming grand alliance of like-minded parties in UP. I cannot say whether Congress would be the member of the alliance or not. Every political party including the Congress is free to strengthen the party base and select their candidates.”
Privately, Congress leaders say they will be demanding 15 seats from the two parties but are ready to settle at 8-10.
The Congress also lost its bargaining power when it contested the bypolls in Gorakhpur and Phulpur in March and finished a distant third despite the SP staking claim on the two seats and later urging the grand old party to withdraw from the contest.
Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have repeatedly called upon opposition parties to bury their differences in states and build consensus at the national level.
Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao said:“they need to have in place a well-thought out strategy to be ready to face any situation,” he said.