SP-Cong talks on verge of collapse

SP-Cong talks on verge of collapse

The proposed alliance between the Samajwadi Party and Congress suffered a big setback on Saturday.

Negotiating seat-sharing for the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the parties accused each other of being unreasonable. Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister and SP supremo, has offered 100 seats to the Congress, but they want 120, sources in his party told DH.

However, neither party said the talks had collapsed completely. “Both want an alliance to check the division of Muslim votes, which play a crucial role in more than 100 seats,” said a senior state Congress leader.

SP leaders also said last-minute efforts were on to resolve differences.

Dynasty seats
The Congress is demanding all Assembly seats in Amethi and Rae Bareli, whose Lok Sabha constituencies are represented by Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.

“We have a sitting MLA from Amethi and he is a senior SP leader,” the SP leader said.
The SP has announced candidates for 191 seats for the first two phases, including in constituencies where the Congress had emerged victorious in 2012. The Congress on Saturday readied its list of candidates for 140 seats.

In a battle of brinkmanship, the Congress rejected the SP offer of 99 of the 403 seats, and insisted the chief minister honour the seat-sharing agreement reached with him before the Election Commission handed him the ‘cycle’ symbol.

Delhi meeting
Meanwhile, in Delhi, senior Congress leaders went into a huddle at party president Sonia Gandhi’s residence.

AICC General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad and UP Congress chief Raj Babbar briefed her and party vice president Rahul about the discussions with the SP.

The party’s Central Election Committee (CEC) met soon after to discuss candidates for the first two phases of the seven-phase elections.

A senior leader said the clear message from the Congress high command was that the “dignity” of the national party should be maintained, and “we should not look like beggars”.

The Congress was taken by surprise on Friday when the SP unilaterally announced 191 candidates. A Congress leader said the party was keen to field candidates for all 28 seats it had won in the 2012 elections, and rejected the SP argument that at least nine Congress MLAs had defected from its ranks.

“We have cleared the seats for the first and the second phase... you will get to know about the alliance by Sunday morning after the announcement of candidates,” Azad told reporters, emerging from the two-hour CEC meeting.

DH News Service

Congress downbeat
If the mood on Saturday at the AICC headquarters is any indication, the alliance with the SP is all but over. A large section of ticket-seekers were angry with the “betrayal” by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, while some were upset with the Congress for assuming that everything would be hunky dory with the “serial backstabber” SP. In Lucknow, SP leader Naresh Agarwal admitted the talks were going nowhere.

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