UP: SP-Congress Shadow-Boxing on, Stances ‘Harden’ Over 2024 Lok Sabha Seat Deal
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Image Courtesy: PTI
Lucknow: Posturing, shadow-boxing and issuing of empty threats is reportedly on between Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) — both part of the grand Opposition alliance INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) -- seat-sharing for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Sunday saw yet another clash of contradictory statements between senior leaders on the issue.
SP president Akhilesh Yadav, responding to a query by reporters on how many seats his party was asking for in UP from the INDIA alliance for the 2024 polls, said: “We are not asking for seats. The Samajwadi Party is giving seats to its alliance partners.”
Yadav who is pushing the PDA or Pichda Dalit Alpsankhyak narrative of uniting backward castes said SP had entered into alliance earlier as well and had always adopted a “large-hearted” approach. He said the party had never shied away from “sacrifices” when it came to seat sharing.
“This time, the fight is much bigger. We (INDIA alliance partners) will sit down and talk about it and decide,” he said, when asked to comment on the seat-sharing formula for the 2024 polls in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
Reacting over the SP president's strategy over seat sharing, Congress state president Ajay Rai said, "Congress is capable enough to contest all 80 seats on its own".
Rai, who was talking to reporters in Bareilly, said "Congress is back on the streets and reaching out to people. The party was built by our workers. At this crucial juncture, we need everyone’s support to improve our tally, we don’t want to disappoint them (party workers). Therefore, we have been focusing, from the organisational point of view, on all the 80 seats. If there is an alliance, the high command will decide how many and which seats the party will contest. The organisation is moving forward with the strategy of winning all 80 Lok Sabha seats."
However, if sources are to be believed, SP is adamant on not leaving more than five to six constituencies for Congress, but the latter is expecting at least two dozen seats.
Meanwhile, since SP has a clear focus on improving its 2022 tally with the aim of enhancing its chances to turn itself into a national entity from a "regional giant", it does not seem to be in a mood to give more than seven seats, said sources close to the development.
"Let’s pledge to make the party a national party by the time we meet at the next national convention,” Yadav had said at the party’s national convention in Lucknow on September 29, 2022. The party’s next national meet will be held in 2027.
The SP joined the INDIA alliance to take on the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and has said it would give the Congress a “fair share” in UP in the seat-sharing deal.
WHAT PREVIOUS DATA SUGGEST
The SP and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as allies.
The BJP won 62 Lok Sabha seats, securing 49.56% votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP’s ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) won two seats with 1.2% votes. The BSP won 10 seats securing 19.26% votes, and the SP won five seats with 17.96% vote share. The Congress won only one seat securing 6.31% of votes. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi lost the Amethi Lok Sabha seat to BJP’s Smriti Irani that year.
In 2014, the BJP had won 71 Lok Sabha seats in UP and secured 42.63% votes. The BJP’s ally Apna Dal had won two Lok Sabha seats, securing 0.02% of valid votes. The BSP failed to win any seat though the party secured a19.77% vote share. The SP won five seats with 22.35% vote share, while Congress won two seats, securing 7.53% of the valid votes.
Political analysts here believe that Congress is now preparing its cadre on 25 seats but may contest at least 19 constituencies, including Rae Bareli, Amethi, Varanasi, Kushinagar, Ayodhya, Domariyaganj, Gonda, Shravasti, Shahjahanpur, Lakhimpur Kheri, Pilibhit, Kanpur, Farrukhabad, Barabanki, Jhansi, Moradabad, Akbarpur, Pratapgarh and Dharuhera.
Similarly, SP's counterpart in western Uttar Pradesh, the Rashtriya Lok Dal is also reportedly bargaining on at least 12 seats, such as Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar, Mathura, Hathras, Bijnor, Kairana, Amroha, Nagina, Aligarh, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad and Meerut but will not compromise for at least less than eight seats, say sources.
"SP is pitching a seat-sharing debate in UP as they want to contest a few seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (where Assembly elections are due soon) but Congress is hell-bent on not giving any seat to Akhilesh Yadav," Kubul Qureshi, a senior journalist who has been covering Uttar Pradesh politics, told NewsClick.
"Rahul Gandhi has taken a strong stance on OBC (Other Backward Classes) and Muslim issues and has been very vocal against atrocities against the minorities, which is proving to be a challenge for Akhilesh, as SP’s core voters are OBC and Muslim and he did not take a stand for them in recent times. Furthermore, the way Congress leaders, such as Mallikarjun Kharge, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Sonia Gandhi took a stand on the caste census, social justice and reservation for OBCs, is also proving a nightmare for all regional parties in UP whose politics are based on caste," the journalist claimed.
Another political analyst said that "as Congress becomes stronger in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh's politics will be in danger".
When asked if Muslim voters would go to Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, Qureshi said, "After Bharat Jodo Yatra, Muslim voters seem to be coming back to their old party and feel that Rahul Gandhi is raising their issues more than Akhilesh Yadav or any other regional party, including BSP and RLD. Congress has become centric for Muslims as of now. W herever it goes, 90% Muslim votes will go to it, be it with BSP or Jayant Chaudhary's RLD. Therefore, Akhilesh is not giving that space (seats) to Congress because he is afraid that once the Muslim vote goes there, it will not come back, and Congress will become stronger."
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