ON A day when Samajwadi Party’s UP president Shivpal Yadav hinted at a tie-up with the RLD and Congress to stop “communal forces”, 17 Congress MLAs from the state conveyed to the party’s vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi that he should look at forming an alliance with “secular forces” to fight the assembly elections next year.
“Most of us expressed our support for a pre-poll alliance with secular forces in UP. After giving a patient hearing to the 17 MLAs, Rahulji told us that our views on an alliance would be considered top priority,” Pradeep Mathur, Congress’s Legislature Party leader in UP told The Indian Express.
”We conveyed our opinion but the final decision has to be taken by the party high command. The BSP is reluctant to go for any alliance and the possible options put forward by most of us were the RLD and SP,” said another party MLA, who attended the meeting. Sources said that Rahul, who met the MLAs individually and later addressed them collectively, also sought to know their opinion about the impact of his Kisan Yatra in the state recently.
Some of the MLAs expressed apprehensions about not being able to maintain the momentum created during the yatra, said sources. But others said that the yatra and the loan-waiver forms that the party had distributed among farmers had generated interest, sources said.
Over the last few months, nine of the 29 Congress MLAs in UP have left the party, with the latest being former state party president Rita Bahuguna Joshi who joined the BJP. Out of the 20 MLAs left, Anugrah Narayan Singh had met Rahul yesterday, Akhilesh Pratap Singh was busy attending a programme in his constituency Deoria and Kaushal Kishore failed to make it for Wednesday’s meeting due to ill health, said sources.
”This meeting came very late and closer to the election. But today, he asked each one of us about our opinion on a pre-poll alliance, and we were given enough time to put forward our issues. We were assured of party tickets and told that experiments would be conducted on other seats,” said a party MLA who attended the meeting.
AICC general secretary in charge of UP, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and state president, Raj Babbar, were present when Rahul addressed the MLAs, sources said.
Earlier, SP leader Shivpal Yadav had said that his party was “ready to make any sacrifice” to stop “communal forces”. “We will bring all Lohiawadi, Chaudhary Charan Singhwadi and Gandhiwadi parties together to stop communal forces,” Shivpal told reporters.
But Congress sources said that the high command was faced with a dilemma over a pre-poll alliance. While the party had been fighting aggressively against the SP government over the last five years, the BSP has not shown any interest in a pre-poll tie-up.
Sources expressed the fear that an alliance with the SP would mean sharing the burden of any anti-incumbency sentiment against the Akhilesh Yadav government.
The Congress has so far stated that it would prefer to go alone in the polls. But there has since been a subtle change in its public pronouncements. On Wednesday, for instance, it did not openly rebuff the SP on its desire to stitch together a grand alliance on the lines of the one forged by Congress, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Lalu Prasad’s RJD in Bihar. Asked about Shivpal’s statement on a possible alliance, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said, “We have seen the statement, we have absorbed the statement, we have internalised it and we will react at an appropriate time.”
Asked whether such an alliance was possible, Tiwari said, “In the preponderance of probabilities, everything is an open season in politics and that is more of a philosophical postulate than an political statement. But having said that, the Newtonian laws of motion say that when things are fast evolving and fast developing, it is appropriate to allow them to play out their course. So we are also watching and we are also observing what is happening in UP very keenly.”