Is all well in INDIA seat-sharing talks in UP? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Is all well in INDIA seat-sharing talks in UP?

Jan 31, 2024 06:47 PM IST

Samajwadi Party has been breaking the news on seat-sharing agreement with allies, but Congress’s demands still seem unmet – a look at what’s going on

On January 19, at 3 pm, Samajwadi Party (SP) national president Akhilesh Yadav, the main driver of the INDIA bloc in Uttar Pradesh, wrote a post on X in Hindi: “Congratulations to everyone on the Rashtriya Lok Dal-SP alliance. Let us all unite for victory!” Within minutes of the post, the SP announced seven seats for the RLD — all in the Jayant Chaudhary-led party's stronghold of West UP, without naming the seats.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president Jayant Chaudhary during the joint election campaign, in Bijnor on Thursday. (ANI Photo) PREMIUM
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president Jayant Chaudhary during the joint election campaign, in Bijnor on Thursday. (ANI Photo)

The post also had the picture of Akhilesh and Jayant shaking hands (at Akhilesh's Lucknow residence) and within five minutes, most of the SP and RLD top leaders and spokesperson reposted Akhilesh’s post and expressed joy.

At 3.19 pm, Jayant also reposted Akhilesh's post with the comment: "Always ready for the protection of national and Constitutional values, it is expected of all the cadres of the alliance partners to take steps forward in sync for the development and prosperity of constituencies.” The RLD and the SP leaders reposted this post too in affirmation.

On January 27, a little after 1 pm, Akhilesh again took to X. This time around, he announced 11 seats for the Congress. He wrote: “Our cordial alliance with the Congress is off to a good start with 11 strong seats (to Congress). This trend will move forward with the winning equation. 'INDIA' team and 'PDA (backwards, Dalits, and minorities)' strategy will change history.”

However, no picture accompanied the post.

While the SP leaders reposted the post, no one in Congress did — neither from the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) nor from the All India Congress Committee (the AICC). Most Congress leaders talking to reporters in Lucknow or New Delhi did not acknowledge Akhilesh's announcement, the way RLD did. Jairam Ramesh, the AICC general secretary in charge of communications and the UPCC president Ajay Rai made similar statements: “It is Akhilesh ji's announcement. The National Committee of Congress is taking decisions. Discussions are going on positively and in a healthy environment.”

“Like Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav), Akhileshji has shown a big heart," SP spokesperson Ameeque Jamei said.

UPCC spokesperson CP Rai said: “As far as the Congress is concerned, discussions are still on between the SP and the committee of Congress that includes Ashok Gehlot, Mukul Wasnik, Salman Khurshid and others. So, it would not be appropriate to comment. However, it would have been better if both the parties declared their seats/candidates together.”

On January 30, the SP declared its candidates for 16 LS seats, which includes five of the 21 seats that the Congress had won in the 2009 LS polls in UP. The Congress was keen on 30 seats, including the 21 it had won in 2009. The SP list is an emphatic and public repudiation of Congress’s demand. The SP has declared candidates in Kheri, Dhaurahra, Farrukhabad, Akbarpur, and Faizabad — all constituencies that the Congress won three election cycles ago.

The talks between the SP and Congress thus do not seem to be going on cordially as projected.

While the Congress leadership is subdued in its reaction to the 11 seats, the SP camp leaders are saying that the SP might give a handful of more seats to the Congress.

“In any case, Akhileshji is not willing— as of now — to give more than 13 seats. The idea is to have winnable candidates, and the Congress does not have enough winnable candidates for UP. The Congress must understand the situation,” a senior SP leader said on the condition of anonymity.

By making an announcement at a time when the INDIA bloc is on shaky ground in West Bengal and Bihar, Akhilesh has also signalled to partners that he is going with the INDIA bloc, said senior SP leader Sudhir Panwar, a probable candidate from a West UP constituency.

Another SP leader said on condition of anonymity: “Akhileshji, the SP, and several other bloc constituents have been asking for seat-sharing finalisation since the third meeting of the bloc members in Mumbai on August 31-September 1, 2023. Four months have lapsed since then, and the Congress instead turned its focus on its Nyay Yatra".

Political analyst and former head of the political science department of Lucknow University, Professor SK Dwivedi said: "I have repeatedly said that the INDIA bloc might face trouble on the leadership issue and seat sharing. The bloc should have first, by consensus, sorted out the leadership issue before seat-sharing. It's obvious that the Bihar development — of Nitish Kumar exiting the bloc — and WB CM Mamata Banerjee's reluctance has emerged as a result. And seat sharing is a troubling issue in all the states. The Congress must stay pragmatic in UP, or else the INDIA bloc would be as good as defunct. The Congress should focus on taking on the invincible-looking Bharatiya Janata Party rather than trying for upmanship within the bloc.”

“The alliance in UP should have been given the shape the way Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh shaped the SP-Congress alliance in 2017 UP assembly polls when the Congress and SP jointly announced the alliance with clear seat sharing and the way Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and the SP chief Akhilesh Yadav announced the alliance for the 2019 UP Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, when SP tied up with BSP, Akhilesh and Mayawati held a joint press conference on January 12, 2019, not only announcing the alliance but also making the seat-sharing formula clear. They announced that of the 80 LS seats in UP, both parties will contest 38 seats each. Two seats were given to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), an SP ally, while the two seats Amethi and Raebareli were left for non-ally Congress.

Similarly in 2017, when the SP tied up with the Congress for the assembly polls, SP state president Naresh Uttam and the then Congress state president Raj Babbar held a press conference on January 22 of that year announcing the alliance and seat sharing formula —105 for Congress and 298 for the SP.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA won 353 seats, the UPA stood at 91, and Others won 98. In UP, of the 80 seats, the BJP with allies won 74 seats while the SP-BSP alliance won 15 seats (SP won 5 and the BSP 10), and the Congress 1.

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    Pankaj Jaiswal is Chief of Bureau, Uttar Pradesh and covers politics. His continued interest in rural, distress, and development journalism, fetched him a handful of prestigious awards and fellowships. Pankaj is a photo-journalist too and tweets at @augustus29lotus

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