Could Rahul lose Amethi if SP went back on its word?
In spite of its not-so-cordial relationship, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress could join forces to counter Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi if he contests the next Lok Sabha election from Lucknow or Varanasi. Anita Katyal reports
Despite the simmering tensions between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, the former has not changed its stand on leaving the field open for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi in the Rae Barelli and Amethi constituencies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Top SP sources told rediff.com that the decision not to field candidates against the two senior Congress leaders remains unaltered even though their party won eight of the ten assembly seats in the two Parliamentary constituencies represented by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
SP leaders maintained that Rahul Gandhi could find himself in deep trouble if they decide to break their word as the caste configurations in Amethi favour their party.
Although relations between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress are not particularly cordial at present, the SP will be reciprocating the gesture made by the Congress. The Congress had withdrawn its candidate against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav when she contested Kannauj Lok Sabha seat vacated by her husband after the 2012 assembly elections.
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Rahul Gandhi could face challenge from within party in Amethi
The Samajwadi Party is also looking at a possible situation where it would need to join hands with the Congress to stop Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in his tracks if he contests the next Lok Sabha election from Lucknow or Varanasi.
“We will do everything possible to ensure Modi’s defeat,” remarked a senior SP leader, adding that all secular forces will join hands if the Gujarat strongman contests from UP.
“There is nothing unusual in this. This will not be the first time when political rivals arrive at an informal understanding when a particular situation arises,” the SP leader said.
The Samajwadi Party may be willing to extend a helping hand to the Gandhis but the Congress vice-president could face a challenge from within his own party.
It is learnt that Congress MP Sanjay Singh, from neighbouring Sultanpur, is in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party which could field him as its candidate from Amethi. As a local Thakur leader, Sanjay Singh has a dedicated following in his community and could pose a problem for the Nehru-Gandhi scion. Alternatively, Sanjay Singh’s wife Amita Singh is also being considered by the BJP for the same seat.
It is no secret that Sanjay Singh has been chafing at being sidelined in the party and has been looking for greener pastures. He was especially upset when he was overlooked for the post of the UP Pradesh Congress Committee president which eventually went to Nirmal Khatri.
His wife Amita Singh’s defeat from the Amethi assembly constituency in the 2012 elections came as a shock. Sanjay Singh’s supporters had charged that the election was sabotaged by the official camp and that Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka Vadra’s campaign in Amita Singh’s constituency had been lukewarm.
SP to distance itself from Cong in run-up 2014 election
The Samajwadi Party’s gesture to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi will not deter the party from upping the ante against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in the coming months. Although the SP extends outside support to the ruling coalition, the party wants to distance itself from the Congress in the run-up to next year’s general election in view of the grand old party’s growing unpopularity.
The Samajwadi Party has decided not to support the UPA government’s Food Security Bill. Senior SP leaders said their party will not support the UPA government’s other legislations either, including the Land Acquisition Bill. The UPA government is depending on these two legislations to refurbish its credibility and revive its electoral fortunes.
While keeping the UPA government on its toes, the Samajwadi Party may not take the extreme step of withdrawing support to the ruling coalition. “Will the government collapse if we withdraw support,” asked a senior SP leader, adding that their party would like to withdraw support if it can ensure an early election.
However, this appears highly unlikely. The Congress can now depend on the support of the Janata Dal-United which recently severed its ties with the BJP. Congress legislators in Bihar assembly had voted for the Nitish Kumar government in the recent confidence vote.
Similarly, the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have again warmed towards each other after the former directed its Tamil Nadu legislators to vote for DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi in the recent Rajya Sabha elections.
Kanimozhi subsequently called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi to thank her personally for this gesture.