UP Polls: Congress, RLD walk on the razor’s edge

Amidst reports that Rashtriya Lok Dal will not be part of a ‘grand alliance’ in Uttar Pradesh, Congress appears to be making a last ditch effort to bring RLD on board

Photos: Hindustan Times via Getty Images; Ant Ram/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photos: Hindustan Times via Getty Images; Ant Ram/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Biswajeet Banerjee

While last-ditch attempts were being made in New Delhi to forge a ‘grand alliance’ between SP-Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the possibility seemed to be receding in view of the rigid stand taken by both RLD and the Samajwadi Party.


While the Congress is said to be open to the alliance and asked Ghulam Nabi Azad to stay back in Delhi to hold last-minute talks with Chaudhary Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary, a section of the Samajwadi Party is said to be cold to the idea.


Samajwadi Party’s national vice president Kiranmoy Nanda told this reporter in Lucknow on Thursday that Samajwadi Party was never in touch with RLD. “You (media) people have been talking about it. We were always clear that Samajwadi Party would align only with the Congress for the forthcoming assembly election,” he said.


Significantly, the RLD, which has eight MLAs in the outgoing Assembly, is part of an alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United). And RLD sources said that if talks failed with the Congress-SP combine, they would not be averse to join hands with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, which is planning to field 11 candidates in western Uttar Pradesh.

Sources say Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was slated to visit Lucknow to announce the alliance, has cancelled his air tickets thrice due to the deadlock in talks with the RLD being conducted in Delhi. Thursday night, they say, will make or break the deal, if any.


Samajwadi Party insiders claim that the RLD is paying the price for maintaining equi-distance with both Jats and Muslims during and after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. In the process, said a SP leader, RLD lost the support of both the communities, resulting in a washout in the general election of 2014 for the party. Jayant Chaudhary had then lost to Hema Malini and Amar Singh, who was put up by RLD from Fatehpur Sikri, had lost his security deposit.


Nanda told this reporter that the blueprint of the SP-Congress alliance was ready. “We have even short-listed candidates for the first and second phase of the elections,” he said.


Privately SP leaders claim that with the UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav making it clear that he would not negotiate with RLD, the task had been left to the Congress to persuade the RLD to accept a lower number of seats.


Conceding that it could help the BJP in some ways if RLD contests on its own in western UP by splitting Jat votes, these SP leaders claimed that they had factored this possibility in their projections.


Sources say Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was slated to visit Lucknow to announce the alliance, has cancelled his air tickets thrice due to the deadlock in talks with the RLD being conducted in Delhi. Thursday night, they say, will make or break the deal, if any.


It is understood that in the SP-Congress alliance, SP would contest around 300 seats while the Congress will contest 100 seats. “ Congress is free to give away some seats from its quota to the RLD,” they privately hinted.


Congress, these sources claimed, had demanded at least one seat each from 75 districts, plus most of the seats in Amethi and Rae Bareli districts. Sources said the Congress was demanding a seat from Lucknow.


"Congress had one sitting member at Lucknow Cantonment but the candidate Rita Bahuguna Joshi had joined the BJP. Congress Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh wants the seat for his wife Amita. On the other hand, the SP wants the seat for their family member Aparna Yadav, wife of Pratik, the youngest son of Mulayam Singh Yadav. But now Amita is set to be shifted to Lucknow East seat," a senior Congress leader claimed.


In the 2012 assembly elections, Congress failed to win a single seat in Rae Bareli but won one from Amethi. However, the lone Congress MLA too joined the BSP last year.

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