Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: A day after deciding to contest 24 seats, including those on which there is no agreement with the Samajwadi Party, the Congress on Thursday urged its eight-month-old ally not to field candidates for the 17 seats it had offered to concede during the seat-sharing talks.

Though senior Congress leader Satyawrat Chaturvedi welcomed the party’s decision to announce candidates for 24 seats — stating that “it is good that we are getting away from the unholy alliance” — party in-charge of U.P., Digvijay Singh said: “The alliance is neither unholy nor over.” Stating that the channels of communication were open, Mr. Singh said: “We are requesting Samajwadi Party not to announce candidates for the 17 seats that they had agreed to leave for us. The rest we can discuss.” As to whether the Congress was ready to withdraw some candidates, the party refrain was that it was still open to discussion.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshi is understood to have spoken to Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh on Thursday and more meetings between the leaders of the two parties are not being ruled out. Another meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Mulayam Singh is also being talked about.

At the same time, however, the central screening committee of the Congress met during the day to draw up a second shortlist for Uttar Pradesh. In the second round, the party is likely to announce candidates for 20 more seats.