The Congress on Sunday announced that it was prepared to contest all 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The decision comes a day after the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) announced an alliance carving up the seats between them.
However, Congress general secretary in-charge of U.P. Ghulam Nabi Azad said the party was willing to “accommodate other secular parties or individuals” if they were willing to join as part of an alliance, and would “embrace” other regional parties.
Addressing a press conference here after a meeting with State leaders, Mr. Azad said the party was open to take the support of other parties in its fight against the BJP.
Stressing the position of the Congress as a key national player, he said, “The whole world knows that the fight for Parliament is one between the Congress and the BJP,” and the contest between the two was not “personal” but a “fight of principles” and to keep India united. “Under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, we will fight with full force based on the ideology of the Congress...We will fight strongly and defeat the BJP. We respect all those parties who will help us in this fight,” said Mr. Azad.
He expressed confidence that the party would double its tally of 2009 when fighting alone it had secured over 20 seats in U.P.
The Congress was snubbed on Saturday as BSP chief Mayawati and SP president Akhilesh Yadav announced they would be contesting 38 seats each. The BSP chief went on to dismiss the party as being “similar” to the BJP in its politics and thinking.
Responding to questions on the SP-BSP alliance, Mr. Azad said the Congress didn’t break the alliance and though it wanted to walk with other parties to defeat the BJP, it “cannot force anyone [to join hands].” Since the SP-BSP had “closed the chapter,” the Congress would now continue the fight against the BJP, said Mr. Azad.
The Congress leader stressed that it was wrong to say that party leaders and workers were dismayed by the SP-BSP rejection. If any party can challenge the BJP at the national level, it is the Congress, he said.
“This is not a State fight. This is fight for Parliament, for Delhi,” he emphasised.
As part of its campaign, the Congress has also reportedly planned 13 public meetings for Mr. Gandhi across the State in February.
Meanwhile, a day after his joint press conference with Ms. Mayawati, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said that after the announcement of the alliance, not only the BJP and its entire organisation, but even the party cadre had lost courage.
“Demoralised and frustrated BJP leaders and workers are desperate to join the SP-BSP, he tweeted.