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UP polls: Akhilesh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi alone in alliance

Lucknow/New Delhi: The prospect of a “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) in Uttar Pradesh virtually collapsed on Thursday with the Samajwadi Party rejecting any alliance with the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and announcing that it would contest 300 of 403 Assembly seats, while the other 103 would be given to the Congress.

The JD(U), that was expected to campaign for Akhilesh Yadav to garner the Kurmi vote, clearly said on Thursday that it was with the RLD. JD(U) spokesman K.C. Tyagi told this newspaper: “We are with the RLD.” Pointing fingers at the SP, he said: “The SP as a senior partner has failed to engage with the RLD and with us.” Mr Tyagi, however, refused to elaborate further on this issue.

The BJP, meanwhile, unleashed Union minister Anupriya Patel, leader of the Apna Dal, an NDA ally, to “make up” with her mother, Krishna Patel, who leads another faction of the outfit, that was expected to join the Akhilesh Yadav bandwagon.

In Lucknow, SP national vice-president Kironmoy Nanda, talking about the proposed SP-RLD alliance, said: “We will forge an alliance only with Congress, not ally with RLD. We will contest 300 seats, leaving the rest for the Congress.”

RLD spokesman Anil Dubey said his outfit “wanted the seats of our choice, but there was no agreement on it”. State RLD chief Masood Ahmad said his party, under the leadership of Chaudhary Ajit Singh and in alliance with smaller parties, would contest on its own. “For any alliance, the leaders of all three parties should have come together on one negotiating table. We simply kept hearing statements on TV... this is not the way to enter an alliance”, he said.

The SP-RLD talks hit a roadblock Thursday when RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary demanded not less than 30 seats, while the Akhilesh Yadav-led party was ready to offer only 22 seats. Incidentally, while the SP spoke of an alliance with the Congress, a few issues are still to be resolved between them. Some of these contentious issues include the Assembly seats in Rae Bareli and Amethi that are now held by SP. The Congress wants all Assembly  seats in these two key constituencies, that are represented in Parliament by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi respectively, but the SP is unwilling to let go of its sitting berths. The SP is also unwilling to tie up with RLD as the Samajwadis fear that distrust between Jats and Muslims in western UP post Muzaffarnagar riots would hit its minority votebank.   

‘Grand alliance’ weak sans RLD in UP
The exclusion of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) from the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance will, undoubtedly, weaken and divide the anti-BJP vote in western Uttar Pradesh.

The RLD-Samajwadi Party friendship broke up even before the alliance, mainly due to ego clashes between their leaders that prevented them from even coming together on the negotiating table. But the development is definitely music to BJP’s ears.

The RLD is essentially a Jat-centric party. The Jat population is around 17 per cent in western UP and the community is up in arms against the BJP that has failed to provide them reservation in central services.

The anti-BJP mood among Jats is growing by the day and the RLD alliance with Congress and SP could have mopped up the benefit in the Assembly elections.

The RLD, which won only nine seats in 2012, has been facing tough times and this is mainly due to its politically inconsistent stand. RLD chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh has changed far too many political partners in the past two decades, eroding the credibility of his party.

His son Jayant Chaudhary, however, has been working relentlessly for the past two years, especially after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where the party drew a blank, to retrieve lost ground and he has, to an extent.

RLD wields influence in districts that include mainly Baghpat, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore, Ghaziabad and Saharanpur and the SP was apparently unwilling to give away some of its sitting seats in the region.

The main factor that tore apart the alliance, however, is the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. The riots between Jats and Muslims were a long-drawn affair that created permanent divisions between the two communities.

The Samajwadi Party was expectedly wary of allying with RLD and annoying its Muslim voters.

Without the RLD in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress-SP alliance may lose out of Jat support, but it will keep its Muslim voters intact. Muslims constitute more than 26 per cent of the population in this region.


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