As ‘outsiders’ look to Congress, party chooses to be cautious in UPhttps://indianexpress.com/elections/as-outsiders-look-to-congress-party-chooses-to-be-cautious-in-up-5633003/

As ‘outsiders’ look to Congress, party chooses to be cautious in UP

The Congress, which has been out of power in the state for nearly 30 years, does not have strong candidates on a large number of seats.

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Congress releases fifth list of 56 candidates
Congress General Secretary and Eastern Uttar Pradesh incharge Priyanka Gandhi Vadra interacts with students during ‘Boat pe Charcha’ during her party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in UP, in Prayagraj on Monday. (PTI)

WITH THE Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contesting on just half the seats owing to the alliance and the BJP indicating to its leaders that a considerable number of MPs would not be repeated where the party has come to know of strong anti-incumbency factor, the Congress is turning into a safe option for turncoats but the party is moving cautiously.

The Congress, which has been out of power in the state for nearly 30 years, does not have strong candidates on a large number of seats. While the party had earlier planned to go into a ‘grand alliance’ with BSP-SP, these two parties, along with RLD, have made it clear that there was no space for Congress. In this scenario, the Congress also does not have other options on seats, where it does not have grassroots leadership but to look towards outsiders.

The very second list of the party, where out of 16, four were outsiders, who had recently joined from other parties or had turned rebel. “We have made it clear, so those who are joining are doing it unconditionally. It is true that some people have been given ticket but it is based on the local equations, where they have given an edge over others,” said Congress state chief Raj Babbar.

Read | With Ganga Yatra, Priyanka Gandhi steers Cong’s poll boat in Uttar Pradesh

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In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, SP and BSP had contested on a majority of seats. While BSP could not win a single seat, SP ended up winning just five seats of 78 seats it contested in the state. However, both the political parties got a decent vote share on a large number of seats. Overall, SP got 22.35 per cent vote share and BSP got 19.7 per cent. The calculation surrounding this vote share forced both the parties, who have been arch rival in UP politics to come together as a third front in Uttar Pradesh keeping the Congress aside despite the fact that Congress many a times have signals of its willingness to join.

However, this time BSP will contest only on 38 seats in the state out of 80 constituencies. SP will contest on just 37 seats and three seats have been given to Rashtriya Lok Dal, which had contested on eight seats in 2014 Lok Sabha election.

In this scenario, several leaders of both the parties, who have considerable say in their region but will not be able to contest election from their respective seats which has gone to the other party, have started looking for other options. The Congress, which lacks grass-roots level leaders on large number of seats in the state is seen as an option by such leaders with the party also keeping its doors open with a message: “anyone who is willing to come along to defeat BJP is welcome to join”.

Sources said the trend was likely to gather momentum once the BJP, which had won 71 seats in 2014 and has decided not to repeat many of its sitting Members of Parliament from the state, will also start declaring its candidates in next two days. SP-BSP would find it hard to accommodate many outsiders like in the past with their own leaders struggling to find a place for themselves or their closed ones.

In its second list, the Congress made it clear that it has kept its doors open for outsiders, who have presence in their respective regions. As a result, in its second list Congress made rebel BJP MP Savitri Bai Phule from Bahraich reserved Lok Sabha constituency and former SP leader Rakesh Sachan as Congress candidate from Fetehpur. Both Phule and Sachan had joined in the presence of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Delhi on March 2.

Former BSP MP Kaiser Jahan, who had also joined Congress earlier this month, has been made Congress candidate from Sitapur, while Omvati Devi, who was recently with BJP and had joined Congress just four days back has been made Congress candidate from Nagina reserved constituency.

While Congress declared candidates on six reserved constituencies in the state, it also chose leaders like Chairman of its SC Department in the state Bhagwati Prasad Chaudhary to contest from Robertsganj reserved constituency.

Sources said some of the former MPs especially from Western Uttar Pradesh are likely to join Congress, which is trying to woo Muslims, Dalits in western UP. While the party is putting forward Imran Masood as its prominent minority face in west UP, it may be mentioned that BJP rebel MLA Avatar Singh Badhana had recently joined the Congress as well last month in the presence of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. However, Badhana has not been given any clear role as of now.

“The Congress does not have a space among people at the grassroots level. It may depend on leaders from outside on large number of seats but it would not bear results as they failed to send a clear message so far and apears to be struggling,” said Harish Srivastava, BJP spokesperson.

The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, called the leaders, who are leaving parties in search of candidature as “weak politicians”. SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, “It is a long battle and leaders have to work according to the ideology. However, those who have a weak mind and join politics for a particular gains are the ones, who leave in this manner. They might go to Congress or others. I would just say that strong politicians should patience.”

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