Congress, Samajwadi Party lock horns over seat sharing

By Rajat Rai, IANS,

Lucknow : There is visible unrest in the Congress over seat sharing with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh ahead of general elections next year as the former looks to expand its base in India’s most populous state.

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Senior state Congress leaders have urged the party’s national leadership to take an early decision on whether the party would share seats with the Samajwadi Party or go it alone.

“The earlier, the better. We are losing time and it is also creating uncertainty among voters,” state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi told IANS.

Uttar Pradesh, which is ruled by the Bahujan Samaj Party, has 80 Lok Sabha seats, of which the Samajwadi Party has 35 and the Congress nine.

According to party sources, the Congress wishes to contest 30 seats while the Samajwadi Party is in no mood to concede more than a dozen.

Even as confusion persists, the state Congress is kicking off election preparations in all constituencies.

“We will be organising rallies in all the 80 constituencies of the state next month. We are also seeking dates from senior Congress leaders for the same,” Joshi said.

The Samajwadi Party’s election preparations are perturbing Congress party members.

“The Samajwadi Party has already organised three rallies and our party leadership is still in a dilemma. It is high time we hit the ground and reached the public,” a senior Uttar Pradesh Congress leader from Allahabad told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav says it will contest the elections with the Congress.

“Talks (on seat sharing) are in the final stages and it will be made public once the process of preparing the electoral role is over,” Yadav told IANS.

But other bigwigs of the Samajwadi Party are not happy at the demands of the Congress.

“Besides the nine seats (the Congress already has), they are also demanding seven other constituencies where they do not have any base. We will be surprised if our leaders decide to leave these seats for the Congress,” a senior Samajwadi Party MP said.

Sources say the Congress has demanded the Dhauraha, Bareilly, Kanth, Fatehpur Sikri, Allahabad, Farukhabad and Pratapgarh seats besides Rae Bareli, Amethi, Kanpur, Varanasi, Baansgaon, Shahjahanpur, Hapur, Aligarh and Mathura seats where the party already has MPs.

The Congress has declared Samajwadi Party rebel Raj Babbar as its candidate from Fatehpur Sikri after it the constituency was separated from Agra following delimitation.

Meanwhile, two other political parties have decided to enter into a poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) led by Ajit Singh claims to have reached an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the Samajwadi Party cold-shouldered it.

“Senior leaders of both the RLD and BJP have agreed and a seat alliance is being worked out,” state RLD president Ramasrey Verma told reporters.

However, according to BJP sources, though the RLD wants to share seats across the state, the former would wish to limit the alliance to western Uttar Pradesh, which is RLD’s area of strength.