UP polls: Cong ties up with Akhilesh

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on January 17, 2017

GHULAM NABI AZAD, Congress leader

SHEILA DIKSHITCongress leader

Talks with RLD also on; Sheila Dikshit withdraws from race for CM candidate

The Congress announced a Bihar-style Grand Alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh, where the polling process started on Tuesday with candidates beginning to file their nominations for the first phase of voting on February 11.

While SP chief and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav stopped short of it, Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Congress General Secretary in charge of the poll-bound State, stated in unequivocal terms that there would, in fact, be an alliance between the two parties.

Simultaneously, the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit withdrew from the race, saying that there can be only one CM contender in an alliance.

Grand Alliance

Announcing the SP-Congress alliance at a press meet here this morning, Azad said: “This question is being asked repeatedly and, for the moment, we are in a position to say that the Grand Alliance will be formed. And I am confident that the SP-Congress alliance will form the next government in UP.”

Although he did not give any more details, it is learnt that talks between Ajit Singh-led RLD too are in progress. The RLD is a strong contender for the Jat votes in western UP.

Akhilesh, on his part, said the decision on the alliance will be taken shortly.

“Decision on alliance (with the Congress) will be taken in a day or two,” said the young CM, who received a major shot in his arm on Monday when he defeated his father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s contesting claim to win the SP’s election symbol, the cycle.

Mulayam and Akhilesh have been engaged in a fierce power tussle to assume supremacy in the SP, with the former moving the Election Commission (EC) to win the right to use the party symbol for his faction. However, the EC declared the faction led by Akhilesh to be the official SP and accorded it the right to use the party symbol

The Congress and SP had been holding seat-sharing talks. Both Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh have been keen on the alliance. Mulayam had been blocking the move, but he no longer holds the position to do it. Akhilesh had said in an interview with BusinessLine a month back that if the alliance is stitched up, they will “win over 300 seats in UP”.

Accordingly, Akhilesh’s close confidant and uncle Ramgopal Yadav said he was very “hopeful” that the alliance would be announced soon.

Speaking to reporters in Delhi, former Delhi CM Dikshit, who had been projected by the Congress as its CM contender in UP, said: “In an alliance, there can be only one chief ministerial candidate. I have already said that I will withdraw my candidature.”

Almost simultaneously, posters appeared in Lucknow about the bright prospects of the Grand Alliance.

Haath ko mila cycle ka saath, Akhilesh-Rahul challenge saath saath (The ‘hand’ has got the ‘cycle’. Akhilesh and Rahul will walk together),” read a poster, flashing pictures of Rahul and Akhilesh along with his wife and MP Dimple Yadav.

Priyanka Gandhi too was seen in the poster.

Lalu lends support

The prospect of the Grand Alliance created a buzz across the political spectrum, with the architect of the Bihar Grand Alliance Lalu Prasad declaring that it is now “certain that communal and fascist forces would be defeated in UP”. “This is not an election for UP. It is an election for the country… In Akhilesh’s leadership, we will strive to make a progressive, secular and just government in UP. Communal forces would be defeated,” he said in a series of tweets.

Published on January 17, 2017
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