A series of meetings between Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leaders has sparked a buzz about the possibility of an alliance between the two parties ahead of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The ruling SP is keen on a tie-up to attract Jat voters of western Uttar Pradesh to counter the BJP in the polls, sources said.
RLD chief Ajit Singh met SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav at the latter’s Delhi residence Sunday. Then Shivpal Singh Yadav, SP’s UP in-charge, went to Ajit’s residence for another meeting.
When contacted, the party leaders denied the possibility of an alliance. Ajit Singh said Sunday’s meeting was about various political issues. “There was no discussion on the possibility of an alliance. I have not even discussed the issue within the RLD organisation,” he said, ruling out reports that the SP might ask one of its candidates to withdraw his Rajya Sabha nomination and make way for him.
SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, “I have no such information (on discussion on the alliance). Discussion will be held at the level of netaji (Mulayam) and he has to take a final decision.”
However, sources in both SP and RLD said that Shivpal and Ajit had met more than six times in the past three months. Western UP has a considerable population of Muslims, Jats and Gujjars, SP sources pointed out, and polarisation on religious lines had helped the BJP in the region in past elections. The RLD’s support would help them counter the BJP as well as the BSP in the region, SP sources said.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP candidates won with maximum margins in western UP. Communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 polarised Hindu voters, majority of whom were Jats, and helped the BJP win the bypoll, the sources added. According to a senior SP leader, the party would need the support of Jats and Gujjars, along with Muslims and Yadavs, to defeat the BJP in 2017.
As for the RLD, it needs an association with a ruling power, party sources said. Ajit Singh had earlier considered a tie-up with the JD(U). But the RLD did not agree with the JD(U)’s proposal of a merger.
Sources said Ajit wanted a Rajya Sabha berth from the JD(U) or SP. “If the SP changes its Rajya Sabha candidate and asks a nominee to withdraw to make way for Ajit Singh, it might attract Jat voters for the SP, but it will send an adverse message among the SP’s cadre-based workers,” said a senior SP leader.
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