A day after the Samajwadi Party and the BSP announced their alliance for the Lok Sabha elections, leaving out the Congress, the party said it would contest all 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh on its own. The party, however, kept the doors open for a possible alliance, with Congress general secretary and UP in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad, who made the announcement on Sunday after several rounds of meetings with party leaders in Lucknow, saying that the Congress was willing to accommodate any secular party that can fight the BJP.
While admitting that the party was keen on being part of the anti-BJP alliance, Azad said, “We wanted a big alliance against the BJP, we were ready to go with it… But, if someone does not want to walk along, then nothing can be done.”
Speaking from Dubai, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that while he respects BSP chief Mayawati and SP’s Akhilesh and Mulayam Singh Yadav, they “underestimated” the Congress and “did not realise” the party’s utility. When asked whether Akhilesh Yadav, with whom he is known to share a good rapport, had got in touch with him, Gandhi said the SP president did not speak to him or the Congress leaders.
“He (Akhilesh) did not speak to me or the Congress party or our people. They have taken a political decision. We respect them…we respect Mayawatiji, Akhileshji and Mulayam Singh Yadavji. But now we will have to do our work. The Congress party will have to fight the elections in UP and we will do it with all our might. We will not back off. We will fight with full force in all the seats. I could be wrong but my thinking is that Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadavji have underestimated the Congress and did not realise Congress party’s utility,” he told News 18 India new channel in Dubai.
In Lucknow, Azad reminded party workers that the fight against the BJP was not limited to the state, that it was a battle for Parliament, for Delhi and that at the national level, “only the Congress can defeat BJP from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Gujarat to Sikkim”.
Azad also said the party’s manifesto for the general election would include a loan waiver for farmers.
Senior Congress leaders, including PCC chief Raj Babbar, Rajya Sabha member P L Punia, Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, former MP Jitin Prasada, and Naseemudin Siddiqui, who quit the BSP to join the Congress in February 2018, were present at the press conference with Azad.
Sources in the party said that at a closed-door meeting with office bearers in Lucknow, Azad told them that if arch rivals SP and BSP could put aside their differences to defeat the BJP, the Congress should put an end to infighting and contest the upcoming elections as a team.
He told them that if the party had contested as part of the BSP-SP alliance, they would not have got more than 25-30 seats, but now, they have a chance to fight and win.
(With ENS, New Delhi)