Left out, Cong sees silver lining

Section within party says a chance to regain lost ground in UP

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 12

The Congress plans for a national-level anti-BJP coalition by way of state pacts was jolted today with the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party declaring a unilateral understanding in Uttar Pradesh, leaving crumbs for the grand old party.

“We will give an official response to this development in Lucknow tomorrow. Any comment made on the BSP-SP alliance until then should be treated as unofficial,” AICC general secretary in charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad said in the capital today even as the Congress braced for the political impact of the announcement and treaded cautiously.

The development leaves Congress with no option but to go it alone or stake its very existence in the state that sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha.

With the BSP and the SP leaving only two seats for the Congress in UP—Rae Bareli and Amethi, represented by UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi— all eyes are now on the next move of the party, which is feeling “jilted”. Rae Bareli and Amethi are the only seats the Congress won in UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll.

Azad threw hints of battle readiness of the Congress in the state saying he had been meeting state leaders in “preparation of Lok Sabha elections.”  The party is likely to contest as many seats as possible, though it will ensure a strategy that doesn’t benefit the BJP. The Congress had sought 12 to 15 seats from the BSP and the SP in a potential grand alliance but was firmly rebuffed with the BSP disinterested in a pact with Gandhi. 

The seats Congress was eyeing include Kanpur, Kushinagar, Saharanpur, Allahabad, Dhaurahra, Moradabad, Agra and others where its nominees finished second in 2014.

Within the Congress, there are two streams of thought about whether the BSP-SP pact is good for it or not. One thought, a section of veterans leads, says the developments will help the Congress regain control in UP where it has ceded too much political space in the past, with the decision to go with SP in the last state polls proving costly.

The other stream backs a grand alliance as more beneficial for the Congress and its anti-BJP plans. With the die now cast, Congress leaders have begun looking at the silver lining in the cloud. “The Congress fighting it alone will be better for everyone rather than the Congress fighting with the BSP and SP,” said a party insider. 

Why BSP, SP upset      

  • The Congress upset Mayawati by not accommodating the BSP in the recent MP and Rajasthan elections
  • Later, it drew the ire of Akhilesh Yadav for not naming the lone SP lawmaker loaned to form the MP government a minister
  • “Give and take determines coalitions. You can’t just take all the time,” a BSP leader said privately
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