Congress reopens talks with SP-BSP alliance in U.P.

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The changed political situation in the wake of the Balakot air strikes has likely induced some flexibility

The Congress may have been the quickest off the blocks to declare its first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections from Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), but the party is making a “serious effort’ to prevent a division of anti-BJP votes in the politically most crucial State that sends 80 members to the lower house of Parliament.

The Congress has opened back-channel talks with the Samajwadi Party (SP) – Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) alliance in a bid to reach a mutually acceptable seat share, an Opposition leader who is familiar with the effort said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In the absence of agreement being reached on a firm alliance, there could even be a tacit understanding depending on the relative strength of the parties in a particular constituency, the leader said.

Though the SP-BSP alliance had refused to allot more than two seats to the Congress in U.P., the changed political situation in the wake of the Balakot air strikes has likely induced some flexibility in the opposition parties’ positions.

“Based on our 2009 performance, the party has already identified over two dozen seats and gave one seat to each one of us. Then there are also people from other parties joining us. So, going below 18-20 seats looks difficult,”said a Congress leader from UP.

And in an attempt to show that the Congress is serious about taking on the Alliance candidates, the party had fielded Salim Shervani from Badaun Lok Sabha constituency against Dharmendra Yadav, who is not only the sitting SP MP but also Mulayam Singh Yadav’s nephew.

Though leaders from the SP alliance have not gone beyond the two seats at public platform and Congress sticks to its position of contesting on all 80 seats, leaders from both sides suggest Congress could be offered to 10 seats including Rae Bareli and Amethi.

When asked if the BSP-SP alliance had agreed to give 9 to 10 seats to Congress, former UP Chief Minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said,“The Congress is party of the alliance, we have given them two seats”.

While announcing the BSP-SP alliance in January, BSP supremo Mayawati too had explained why it didn’t make sense to accommodate the Congress in alliance. “In an alliance with the Congress, our votes get transferred to them but their votes don’t come to alliance partners. So, they benefit, we don’t,”the BSP chief said.

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