Seat-sharing talks hit a road block in U.P. as Congress ‘unhappy’ with SP offer

SP offers less than ten seats, claiming that Congress deserves only four seats on the basis of statistics; asks Congress to reach out to SP chief Akhilesh Yadav if it wants more; SP seeks concessions in M.P.

January 18, 2024 11:02 pm | Updated 11:26 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Samajwadi Party secretary-general Ram Gopal Yadav, party leader Udaiveer Singh and others leave the residence of Congress leader Mukul Wasnik after attending the Congress national alliance committee meeting in New Delhi on January 17, 2024.

Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Samajwadi Party secretary-general Ram Gopal Yadav, party leader Udaiveer Singh and others leave the residence of Congress leader Mukul Wasnik after attending the Congress national alliance committee meeting in New Delhi on January 17, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

The negotiations between the Congress and Samajwadi Party, for seat-sharing in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming Lok Sabha election, have hit an impasse. According to sources, at the end of the third round of talks which concluded on January 18, the SP is offering less than ten seats, a tally which the Congress finds unacceptable.

SP Secretary General Ramgopal Yadav, who led the party in the talks, has told the Congress’ National Alliance Committee that, for any further concessions, the Congress top leadership must directly connect with SP President Akhilesh Yadav.

According to sources, neither the Congress general secretary in-charge of U.P. Avinash Pande nor the party’s State president Ajay Rai were present at the meeting. Their absence is significant, as sources on both sides said that there had been an acrimonious exchange between Mr. Rai and Mr. Pande and the SP representatives. The argument began with the SP delegation flagging a report in a local television channel, which gave details of the seats to which the Congress is staking a claim. “We cannot have negotiations via media,” the SP delegation reportedly told the Congress in no uncertain terms.

Few concessions

The Congress began the negotiations by presenting a list of 15 top priority seats, which was distilled based on their performance in the last few general elections. The SP’s starting point on the other hand, was that the Congress deserved to stake its claim in only four seats. “The Congress won Rae Bareilly and was second in Amethi, Fatehpur Sikri, and Kanpur. So if you are leaning on cold statistics, then we can concede only four seats to them,” a senior SP leader told The Hindu.

Mr. Rai, the Congress State chief, is keen on fighting from Balia, a seat that the SP is not willing to concede. The SP, on its part, has demanded that the Congress should give it a “token representation” in Madhya Pradesh, arguing that this is crucial for two reasons. One, it will bring a close to the SP-Congress conflict from the recent M.P. Assembly election, when the Congress reneged on an assurance of conceding seats to the SP. Second, the SP argues that their presence in M.P. will help in countering the BJP’s newly appointed Chief Minister Mohan Yadav.

According to a senior Congress leader, the SP’s offer does not take into account the changed political situation, especially the fact that the Congress is consolidating its presence among minority groups, and is therefore not acceptable.

Meanwhile, despite Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s public stand of going solo in the 2024 election, the Congress has kept an open door for her. “She is also under pressure from her leaders and cadre to ally with us. But so far, she has made very unreasonable claims, asking for seats in three states — Rajasthan, Punjab, and Delhi. And in U.P., she demands that she should be the majority partner,” a leader involved in the talks said.

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