If confusion prevails, INDIA bloc can never defeat BJP: Akhilesh
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav criticized the Congress for not forging an alliance in Madhya Pradesh, saying the INDIA bloc cannot defeat the BJP with confusion. Yadav also warned the Congress about making comments on his party's stronghold of Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
Amid growing tension between INDIA bloc’s two key players in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav continued his attack on the Congress after the SP failed to forge an alliance with the party in Madhya Pradesh. The SP chief, who openly criticised the Congress the day before for what he alleged was a ‘betrayal’, on Friday said “if this confusion prevails (among the allies) the INDIA alliance would never be able to defeat the BJP.”
Talking to reporters in Shahjahanpur on the sidelines of the party’s flagship campaign Lok Jagran Abhiyaan for the 2024 general elections, Akhilesh said: “The country has a big challenge (in 2024). The BJP is a big party. It is a highly organised outfit. So to take it on, there should not be any confusion in any of the constituents of the (INDIA bloc). If you take on the BJP with confusion, you will not succeed.”
Bitterness between the SP and Congress came to fore on Sunday over the Madhya Pradesh assembly polls. The SP alleged that the Congress did not do any seat-sharing with the SP despite assurance by the MP Congress state president Kamal Nath and senior party leader Digvijaya Singh. Both Nath and Singh are former chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh.
“The PDA—Pichada, Dalit and Alpsankhyak—(SP’s formula of talking about backward, Dalits, and Muslims together as a voters’ group) came first, the INDIA bloc later. I have earlier said on many occasions that the ‘INDIA’ is an alliance but our strategy is PDA. PDA will defeat the NDA,” Akhilesh said in Shahjahanpur on Friday.
“So far as the forthcoming assembly elections in many states are concerned, the INDIA bloc should have clarified at the outset that there will not be any agreement at the state level. I was under the impression that there would be an agreement at the state level considering our talks with the Madhya Pradesh leaders (Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh) of the Congress,” he said.
“So when they asked us which seats I wanted, I sent all the data of our previous performance in MP. When the Congress needed support to form the government (immediately after 2018 MP state polls), our lone MLA was the first to extend it and the Congress could form the government (which later fell). We told those leaders that we are against the BJP and take whatever support you want from us to defeat the BJP,” he added.
“They held a meeting with our delegation that went on till 1 am. They assured our delegation that approximately six seats could be given to the SP. I assumed and felt assured even if the SP gets four, it would be fine with us. But when the Congress list came (on Sunday of 144 candidates), it even fielded a candidate on the seat that the SP won in 2018 in MP. So under compulsion, we also went ahead and declared candidates,” Akhilesh said.
Toning himself down, he said: “But I assure that the SP will contest only those seats in MP where the organisation is strong or in position to defeat the BJP.” “After the MP case, I have understood that INDIA alliance is only for the ‘Bharat’ elections, India elections, the country’s elections. When the country’s elections come, we will think over it. Then those who want seats, there is a different platform (for discussion) for it. But ultimately the issue is of credibility. If the Congress continues with this behaviour, who will stand with it,” he further said.
The SP chief also cautioned the Congress over the Gandhi family’s traditional two constituencies in U.P.—Amethi and Rae Bareli. Without taking anyone’s name but hinting at the Congress state president Ajay Rai, Akhilesh virtually warned the Congress saying: “One leader of the Congress had been making unpalatable comments on the SP over Azamgarh. Remember, Azamgarh has a deep bond with the SP. If they make any comment on Azamgarh, they too should be prepared to listen. If the utterances are in consultation with the top Congress leadership, it’s a different matter altogether.
“If you speak over Azamgarh then understand that we have the same emotional attachment with the Azamgarh as the Congress may have with Amethi and Rae Bareli. But we never made any comment on Amethi and Rae Bareli. So they should be cautious because they also have the same emotional attachment with the two constituencies,” Akhilesh added.
Akhilesh’s obvious reference was to Ajay Rai’s comment on Thursday wherein he was quoted in a section of media as saying if Akhilesh Yadav was so strong, how come they lost the Azamgarh to the BJP. Akhilesh Yadav had won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Azamgarh but the party lost the seat in June 2022 bypolls to the BJP. The SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav too won the Azamgarh seat in 2014.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi won Amethi in 2004, 2009 and 2014 but lost it to BJP’s Smriti Irani in 2019. Before Rahul, Sonia Gandhi won it in 1999, and Rajiv Gandhi won it four times between 1981 and 1991 while Rajiv’s brother Sanjay Gandhi won it in 1980. Former Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been the Rae Bareli MP since 2004.