Post Priyanka, Akhilesh looks to mend fences with Cong

Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav. AFP file photo

Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav may have allied with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, excluding the Congress from it, but he seems to be trying to keep the grand old party in good humor after the entry of Priyanka Gandhi in the state's electoral arena.

Akhilesh on Saturday hailed the appointment of Priyanka as AICC general secretary and said that it would help the Congress "strengthen" its roots in the state.

The SP chief also heaped praise on Congress president Rahul Gandhi for inducting Priyanka into the party.

"The decision to induct Priyanka into the party is good... it is good that the Congress is giving opportunities to the youngsters," Akhilesh said in an informal chat with reporters here.

The SP supremo also evaded a direct reply, when asked about his future relationship with Rahul. Akhilesh had also avoided a direct reply when asked if he would support the candidature of Mayawati for the post of the prime minister.

Akhilesh's remarks assume significance as his alliance partners and BSP supremo Mayawati has been attacking the Congress. Mayawati has also not so far reacted to Priyanka's entry into politics.

Interestingly, both Akhilesh and Rahul have chosen to avoid criticising each other even after the SP-BSP alliance. "I respect Akhilesh and Mayawatiji... all of us are fighting to oust the BJP," Rahul had said.

Sources in the SP said that Akhilesh did not want a "direct fight" with the Congress on Muslim dominated seats apprehending that the Muslim votes could get divided, especially after Priyanka's arrival on the state's electoral scene.

"We would like Priyanka to focus on seats where the BJP is strong, so that she may dent the upper caste vote bank of the saffron party... we do not want any division in the Muslim votes," said a senior SP leader here.

The SP leader said that the BSP might get the lion's share of LS seats in the eastern UP region of which Priyanka is the in-charge for the Congress.

"We will be contesting less than a dozen seats in the eastern region... so we may not get involved in a direct fight with the Congress," he added. 

The SP and the Congress had contested the 2017 UP Assembly polls in alliance but it failed to click.  

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