Lok Sabha elections 2019: Debate over Congress role in UP poll math after Priyanka comment
As the Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh head into 41 crucial seats in its eastern region, the role of the Congress in the electoral arithmetic came into question on Thursday, sparked by comments by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra the previous day that her party was helping the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance in some seats by eating into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) votes.
While campaigning in Amethi, the Congress east UP incharge said that in places where the party was not strong, it had put up candidates to eat into the BJP’s support base to bolster the opposition SP-BSP alliance, which it is not a part of but with which it shares a larger anti-BJP sentiment.
Priyanka Gandhi’s comment led to BSP supremo Mayawati alleging that it was the two national parties that had a “tacit understanding”, and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav saying that the Congress was “making excuses” for its lack of support.
The question of vote arithmetic is crucial in UP, where combined opposition candidates had wrested three crucial parliamentary seats from the BJP in bypolls last year, including the saffron party stronghold of Gorakhpur (where the opposition candidate won by more than 21,000 votes). But this time. Gorakhpur is witnessing a triangular fight between the BJP, Congress and the SP-BSP alliance, leading to speculation about which side the Congress may damage.
Cautioning voters, Mayawati said that if they supported Congress, the BJP would benefit. “People should not waste their vote by supporting Congress. They should support the alliance candidate to ensure BJP’s defeat,” she said. “The Congress leaders have appealed to party supporters that even if the BJP candidates win the election, they should ensure the defeat of the alliance candidate,” she added.
Yadav also said he did not buy into the Congress claim. “I do not believe that the Congress has fielded weak candidates anywhere. No party does it. People are not with them. That is why they are making excuses,” he said. The BJP, on its part, contended that this was proof that the Congress had been reduced to a “fringe organisation”.
Later in the day, however, Priyanka Gandhi addressed a meeting of SP workers in Rae Bareli -where her mother Sonia Gandhi is contesting the elections, and where the alliance has not fielded a candidate. “My statement has been misreported. I had said that the Congress is fighting, and I would prefer to die rather than give any benefit to the BJP,” she told the gathering.
The meeting was organised by SP MLA Manoj Pandey, indicating his party’s support to Sonia Gandhi in the constituency.
The SP-BSP alliance is also not contesting in Amethi,where Congress president Rahul Gandhi is in the fray.
Rahul Gandhi also said in a television interview on Wednesday that wherever the Congress was not in a position to win, it will help the SP-BSP alliance. “A secular formation was going to win whether it is BSP, SP, or Congress,” he told NDTV while denying that his party was dividing the anti-BJP votes.
“Wherever we don’t have a strong candidate, we are giving help to the BSP-SP [which are fighting in alliance]. We’re saying okay, we’re going to harm the BJP. Where we have solid candidates, we are fighting for our space,” he added.
Gandhi said he had told Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia, who are in charge of east and west UP respectively, that “our primary aim is to defeat the BJP, so in places where we are not going to win, we’ll help the [SP-BSP] alliance”.