Akhilesh Yadav Hints Seat-Sharing Deal With Congress Finalised


'All's Well...': Akhilesh Yadav Hints At Seat Pact With Congress

Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav (L) and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi (File).

New Delhi:

The struggling INDIA bloc received a welcome boost Wednesday after Samajwadi Party boss Akhilesh Yadav suggested seat-share talks with the Congress – for Uttar Pradesh’s 80 Lok Sabha seats – were nearly completed.

This, sources said, comes a day after Akhilesh Yadav gave the Congress an ultimatum of sorts – ‘complete seat-share talks or I won’t participate in the ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra”.

“All is well that ends well. Yes, there will be an alliance… there is no conflict. Everything will be clear soon,” a smiling Mr Yadav said. Congress’ General Secretary, Avinash Pandey, told NDTV, “We are awaiting confirmation from Congress President (Mallikarjun Kharge)… we agreed to change some seats in the interest of the alliance.”

Sources told NDTV that Mr Yadav’s party will contest 62 seats, with 17 reserved for the Congress and one left to Chandrashekhar Azad’s Azad Samaj Party. There are, though, some sticking points.

The Congress is understood to want 19 but has agreed to give up Moradabad, which was won by the Samajwadi Party’s ST Hasan in 2019. In return, the Samajwadi Party will withdraw its demand for Varanasi, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s constituency. The two may also swap Sitapur and Hathras. And the Samajwadi Party has been offered Bulandshahr or Mathura in exchange for Shravasti.

A final announcement is expected at 5 pm or by Thursday latest, sources added.

Talks between the two – seen as a barometer of INDIA’s ability to mount a sustained challenge to the BJP’s formidable poll-winning machinery – have been under scrutiny over the past few days, particularly after the Congress-AAP won the Chandigarh mayoral election to mark the bloc’s first electoral win.

READ | AAP Wins Chandigarh Mayor Poll, Top Court Cancels Earlier Result

As recently as this week it looked like there could be no deal, till Priyanka Gandhi Vadra stepped in.

Congress sources said Ms Gandhi Vadra – who might, rumours say, make her electoral debut in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, from the Raebareli seat vacated by Sonia Gandhi – made it happen.

READ | Nitish Kumar, Priyanka Gandhi’s Names Proposed For This Big Challenge

She reportedly worked out the details and reached out to Mr Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, whose ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ is now in UP, to get their approval.

Sources also said Sonia Gandhi – whose Lok Sabha-to-Rajya Sabha switch led to talk of a leadership shift in the party, with greater emphasis on Ms Gandhi Vadra – also played a key role, helping state leaders recognise some demands as “unreasonable” and “unrealistic” given her party’s dismal performances in the 2014 and 2019 elections, when the Congress won less than 100 Lok Sabha seats.

READ | After Sonia Gandhi’s Rajya Sabha Shift, Buzz Around Her Raebareli Seat

Also, in the 2022 UP Assembly election, the Congress won just two seats. The Samajwadi Party won 111.

The news comes as a big boost for the grouping that has struggled for cohesion since it was formed in June last year, with disagreements over seat-sharing high on the list of problems to be overcome.

The bloc, led by the Congress, has already seen the exit of Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) boss Nitish Kumar and is almost certain to also lose Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal in UP. 

READ | “Had Limited Time To Make Decision…”: RLD Leader On BJP Alliance Buzz

Nitish Kumar has allied with the BJP and Jayant Chaudhary is expected to follow.

And over in Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress said it plans to contest the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats on its own, after persistent criticism of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee by the Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

READ | “No Tie-Up With Congress”: Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal Twist Stuns INDIA Bloc

In Punjab, where the Congress was beaten by the AAP in the last election, the two have been unable to agree a seat-share deal. The hope, though, is that the mayoral election win will have a positive impact.

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