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Cong-SP alliance on verge of collapse
Published on 6 Mar. 2009 12:52 AM IST
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Congress and Samajwadi Party talks for a poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh were on the verge of collapse on Wednesday when Congress declared a list of 24 candidates which it said was in response to SP having “violated” the coalition dharma by unilaterally announcing 64 contestants. The failure of two allies to cement a pact would be good news for Mayawati’s prime ministerial ambitions. BSP would face divided votebanks of the two rivals -- and avert a probable Muslim consolidation. There would be increased acrimony among their cadres with BSP best placed to benefit. At the same time, the breakup would dash BJP’s hopes that a deal with Mulayam would push upper caste votes, veering towards Congress, to its kitty. The Congress decision to name candidates in 10 Lok Sabha seats where SP has already named its nominees, including eight which SP won in the 2004 polls, was a red rag to Mulayam Singh Yadav, as was the naming of SP turncoats Raj Babbar and Beni Prasad Verma as Congress candidates from Fatehpur Sikri and Gonda. The bad blood generated as a result of this extreme brinkmanship is expected to make a patch-up now quite difficult. In turn, this could affect the UPA’s prospects in UP, a key state with 80 seats, where a joint showing would have brightened the prospects of both the parties. Congress expressed its ``disappointment’’ with SP by also naming Anu Tandon from Unnao. SP had objected to her candidature, saying it was being pushed by Congress leaders because of her links with a leading industrial house whose interests were opposed to SP. The stage may now be set for retaliatory action, with SP sources threatening to name candiates on all UP seats, barring Sonia Gandhi and Rahul’s boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Unless both sides now decide to pull back from the brink and withdraw candidates, it is unlikely that a pact will fall in place. While Congress is to contest Sultanpur, the seat has been withheld. Sanjay Singh is the prime aspirant from the seat in the Gandhi pocketborough. The party named Ratna Singh from Pratapgarh, Salman Khursheed from Farrukhabad and Begum Noor Bano from Rampur, three contentious seats held by SP and sought by Congress for “friendly fights”. All sitting MPs have been renamed, which includes Sonia Gandhi and Rahul. Sources said the partnership struck in the wake of Indo-US nuclear deal was unravelling as now only a climb down by SP could bring about a rapprochement. This may be difficult, as the SP duo had met Sonia Gandhi on Sunday for talks on seat-sharing. AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh blamed Samajwadi stubbornness against “friendly fights” for the confrontation, though he added that the doors for talks were still open. In fact, the manner in which Digvijay read out the list of candidates to the reporters by thanking Samajwadi camp for its support in the nuke deal and in stalling communal forces in UP in 2004, sounded like “it was nice knowing you” parting shot. What may keep the optimists in two camps still entertained was that Congress identified BJP-BSP as its main enemy in UP. Digvijay also said the concept of “friendly fight” was to ensure that both Congress and SP contested where they were strong as it would ensure that those seats stayed within UPA. “We still want to jointly fight the casteist and communal outfits,” he said. But arguments against BSP failed to humour Samajwadis, as Amar Singh charged Congress with being “unfair and unreasonable”. The Mulayam confidant said, “AICC has announced names for seats won by SP in 2004 while we had left three seats where Congress finished ahead of SP. They did the same in MP assembly polls just after we supported Manmohan Singh in the nuclear deal. They are forgetting that all the candidates they fielded in SP-held MP seats lost.”

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