It was more than a meeting of minds when the Congress Tuesday echoed BSP chief Mayawatis allegation that the SP and the BJP were hand in glove in polarising people on religious lines in Uttar Pradesh. In fact,the Congress is said to be eager for a pre-poll alliance and sent feelers to the BSP.
The ruling party at the Centre is learnt to have proposed through backchannels that the Congress and the BSP should contest the Lok Sabha seats they hold at present 22 and 21 respectively and split the remaining 37 seats.
Asked about the prospects of such an alliance,AICC general secretary in charge of UP,Madhusudan Mistry,said: It is too early to say anything. I have no idea whatsoever.
However,Mistry echoed Mayawatis view that the BJP and the SP are hand in glove in polarising people ahead of elections. It is the duty of any government to protect the life and property of citizens. If they cant protect them,they have no right to stay in the government. They themselves should resign, Mistry said,a day after Mayawati demanded the dismissal of the SP government.
Mayawatis close aide Satish Chandra Mishra denied any pre-poll talks with the Congress. We have already declared our candidates and we will contest all the seats, Mishra told The Indian Express.
Last Friday,Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had also reflected the mood in the party when he slammed the SP regime for what he said was its failure to control riots. Even the BSP was better, he had said.
The Congress and the BSP had entered into an alliance for the 1996 assembly elections and Mayawati had later said that the alliance had only benefited the Congress. Ahead of the 2014 elections though,both parties find themselves cornered as the SP and the BJP are perceived to be going for broke. While the SP is seen to be trying to consolidate its hold over Muslims,apart from OBCs,at the expense of the Congress,the BSP camp is jittery about losing its core support base if polarisation along religious lines takes place. A Congress-BSP combine could,however,be a formidable force if it can bring Muslims and Dalits together,along with a section of the upper castes.
While both parties are said to be aware of the need to contest together in 2014,much would depend on seat-sharing talks. Mayawati is known to have national ambitions and would like to leverage her alliance with the Congress to work towards realising it in the event of a hung Parliament. She would,however,need to contest a maximum number of seats to be able to have enough MPs to be in the contention for the top job in any non-Congress,non-BJP government.
With 22 MPs in the Lok Sabha from the state,the Congress is unlikely to cede much ground to the BSP. Negotiations between the SP and the Congress for a pre-poll alliance in 2009 had collapsed with the Congress,then perceived as a minor player in UP,refusing to play second fiddle to the SP.
While both the SP and the BSP support the UPA government from outside,Congress strategists believe that the SP will withdraw support sometime soon in a bid to insulate itself from anti-incumbency.
Mayawati,on the other hand,has maintained that she will support the UPA government through its term.