INDIA Bloc’s UP Seat Sharing Pact Finalised, Congress To Fight On 17 Seats

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

Lucknow:

The Congress will contest 17 of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 Lok Sabha seats in the forthcoming general election, while the Samajwadi Party will be allotted the remaining 63, the INDIA bloc members said this evening.

This is the first major seat-share deal announced by the opposition alliance, which was formed in June to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Apart from its strongholds of Raebareli and Amethi (lost to the BJP’s Smriti Irani in 2019), the Congress will field candidates from Kanpur Nagar, Fatehpur Sikri, Basgaon, Saharanpur, Prayagraj, Maharajganj, Amroha, Jhansi, Bulandshahar, Ghaziabad, Mathura, Sitapur, Barabanki, and Deoria.

In addition, it has also been given Varanasi, which is Mr Modi’s constituency.

The Samajwadi Party, meanwhile, will assign seats to regional parties from its share; at least one of these regional parties, though, is not expected to be in play with Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal believed to have re-aligned itself with the BJP despite agreeing a seven-seat deal with the SP last month.

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Samajwadi Party General Secretary Rajendra Chaudhary and his Congress counterpart, Avinash Pandey, addressed a press conference in Lucknow, at which the former threw down a warning for the BJP, which has dominated UP’s electoral landscape over the last 10 years, winning 71 seats in 2014 and 62 in 2019.

“The alliance is a message for the country. There are 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP… Akhileshji has repeatedly said BJP came to the centre from UP (and) because of UP it will lose power in 2024.”

“The situation in the country is very bad… farmers and youth are on the streets. INDIA alliance’s dream is to save the country from BJP,” Mr Chaudhary declared.

Mr Pandey told reporters the Congress had not yet decided on candidates for its seats, including the high-profile Amethi and Raebareli. “Gandhi family considers both as ‘home’ and will take a decision soon,” he said, amid speculation Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will make her electoral debut from the latter constituency.

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The Congress-Samajwadi deal comes a day after Akhilesh Yadav gave the national party sort of an ultimatum – ‘complete talks or I won’t participate in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra”.

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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.

However, till as recently as yesterday it looked like there could be no deal.

That was when Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Sonia Gandhi stepped in.

Sources have told NDTV the two reached out directly to Akhilesh Yadav to broker a deal, and then spoken to Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders from both sides to finalise arrangements.

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Congress sources said Ms Gandhi was key, as she helped state leaders understand some of their demands were “unrealistic” given the party’s dismal overall performances in the 2014 and 2019 polls.

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 has already seen the exit of Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) boss Nitish Kumar.

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.

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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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