Days after BSP chief Mayawati and her Samajwadi Party counterpart Akhilesh Yadav had dismissed the Congress’s announcement that it will not field candidates for seven Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, where top leaders of the BSP-SP-RLD coalition will contest, the grand old party has taken the first step by not putting up any nominee against the two top Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leaders.
RLD president Ajit Singh is contesting from Muzaffarnagar, and his son and party deputy Jayant Chaudhary from Baghpat.
Both seats go to the polls in the first phase of elections, nominations for which were closed on Monday. The Congress did not field candidates on either seat, making way for a bipolar contest between the RLD and the BJP.
The party has fielded Mahesh Pathak from the third seat in the state the RLD is contesting: Mathura.
The BJP has renominated sitting MPs from both seats: Satyapal Singh in Baghpat, and Sanjeev Balyan in Muzaffarnagar. Ajit Singh had lost to Satyapal from Baghpat in 2014. Jayant had lost to BJP’s Hema Malini from Mathura.
While the Congress did not field candidates against Ajit and Jayant, the party has left it to the local units whether to campaign for the father-son duo. Stating that not fielding candidates and not canvassing should not be mixed up, UP Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajpoot said, “The SP-BSP-RLD alliance did not field candidates against the Congress in Amethi and Rae Bareli (where party president Rahul Gandhi and ex-chief Sonia Gandhi are set to contest) but they are not campaigning for the Congress there. They respect our top leaders, and the Congress is reciprocating that respect (by not fielding candidates from these seats). Now it is up to the local Congress units to decide their move (on canvassing for the alliance candidates).”
Congress’s Baghpat district president Chaudhary Ram Kumar told The Indian Express, “We will campaign for Jayant to defeat the BJP. Loal RLD leaders today called me to seek (Congress’s) support and join the campaign. They had also invited me for Jayant’s nomination filing, but I skipped the event since I did not receive any written instruction from the Congress headquarters. We are waiting for instructions from our top leaders.”
The party’s Muzaffarnagar district president, Naimullah, said, “If the RLD invites us, we will campaign for its candidate. If we are not invited, we will (instead) campaign for other Congress candidates”. UP Congress president Raj Babbar had said that the Congress would not field candidates in seven Lok Sabha seats in UP, including constituencies where Mayawati, Akhilesh, Mulayam , RLD’s Ajit Singh and Jayant will contest from. Both Mayawati and Akhilesh had scoffed at the Congress’s announcement, stating that the SP-BSP-RLD alliance is capable of taking on the BJP.