Congress game for ‘secular government’ in UP: Jaiswal

By Mohit Dubey, IANS,

Lucknow : In an implicit admission that the Congress may not do as well as it wanted to, central Steel Minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal Monday said it was ready to support “a secular formation” in Uttar Pradesh.

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Asked if the Congress could extend support to the Samajwadi Party (SP) if the latter finishes as the single largest party in the 403-seat house, Jaiswal said “his party would be open to a secular formation”.

The MP from Kanpur declined to spell out if he had the SP or Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in mind.

“Congress would be game for a secular formation and is ready to take or give support,” Jaiswal told IANS, speaking one day before the millions of votes polled in Uttar Pradesh and other states are counted.

“Our first aim is that a duly elected government is formed in the state. We will try to do whatever is in our capacity (to achieve that),” he said.

Congress star Rahul Gandhi spearheaded his party’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, in the hope of securing much more than the pathetic 22 assembly seats it won in 2007 out of the total 403.

The Congress performed much better in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, finishing just behind the SP – a feat that was largely credited to Gandhi. But most exit polls now say the party may be in for a shock.

Four exit polls at the end of the seventh and last round of balloting Saturday said the Congress will win 38 to 62 seats in India’s most populous state this time.

Until now, Gandhi targeted both the SP and the BSP, branding both corrupt and unworthy of people’s support.

Jaiswal added that the staggered state polls, which ended Saturday, were a semi-final to the 2014 Lok Sabha battle.

He said while the Congress put its “best foot forward” in Uttar Pradesh, where its organisation is in a shambles, it had largely treated the polls as a “recce” for the next parliamentary election.

“This was just a dry run for the larger national picture,” Jaisal said, while crediting the Gandhi scion with “bringing back to life” party cadres across the state.

“The hard work Rahul Gandhi put in the run up to the polls has to be appreciated by all, specially we the Congress men,” Jaisal pointed out. He said the Congress “is now alive in all the 403 constituencies”.

Earlier, he said, the party could barely manage a few thousand votes, and that too in some of the seats it held in parliament.

Now, he added, the voting pattern would witness a quantum jump in favour of the Congress. “I am sure we will garner 10,000-15,000 votes across the constituencies where we contested.”

The Congress, which has been out of power in Uttar Pradesh since 1989, contested 356 seats in Uttar Pradesh, leaving the remaining 47 to its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh.