Left out of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is likely to contest the Lok Sabha polls on its own in the crucial Hindi heartland state, sources said.
The Congress leadership maintained a stoic silence and refused to comment on being left out of the alliance of regional rivals SP and BSP for the high-stakes general election, which is only months away.
Asked to comment on the tie-up announced by BSP chief Mayawati and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav, All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Ghulam Nabi Azad said the party would not react immediately and would come out with a detailed reaction in Lucknow on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Lok Dal kept its hopes alive, saying the talks for finding a place in the alliance were continuing.
"The alliance of the two parties has been announced today...as far as we are concerned, our talks for the same are continuing," RLD national spokesperson Anil Dubey told PTI.
On the SP and the BSP deciding to contest 38 Lok Sabha seats each in Uttar Pradesh and leaving two seats for the Congress, thereby sparing only two seats for other parties, Dubey claimed that seats were not an issue and if any party had to be included in the alliance, a way could always be found.
"If anyone has to be adjusted, there will be no problem with seats as those can be found," he stressed.
The RLD leader said his party's intention was to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for which like-minded parties had to join hands.
"To achieve this, we are prepared for both dedication and sacrifice, but our honour should not be compromised," he added
Uttar Pradesh RLD president Masood Ahmed said the party was confident of getting its rightful share.
"We have not lost hope. The RLD is still in the alliance...the vice-president of the party, Jayant Chaudhary, has talked to (SP chief) Akhilesh Yadav and demanded six seats...Chaudhary will talk to the leaders (of the tie-up)...we will get our rightful share," he said.
"Things will be clear in a week's time...we are confident that the leaders (of the tie-up) will think over our demands," Ahmed added.
Earlier, Azad met Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh and former MP Pramod Tiwari at his residence.
Azad and UP Congress leaders have been meeting leaders from the western parts of the state for the past two days. The veteran leader said he, along with other leaders, would be meeting the leaders and workers of the party from central and eastern Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.
"We heard the press conference of the BSP and SP leaders. The party will come out with its stand in Lucknow on Sunday," Azad merely said, while refusing to react on the Congress being left out of the alliance.
He said the party would not react on the announcement on Saturday and any leader commenting on the issue would be putting forth his personal view.
Asked whether the tie-up was a setback for the Congress, he refused to comment.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress leader Kamal Nath said there was a need for alliances in the entire country to defeat the BJP.
He also said the saffron party got only 31 per cent votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and claimed that it had the people's mandate, adding that even this happened because votes were split.
However, party insiders felt that the SP-BSP tie-up was a blow to the Congress's efforts to unite all the opposition parties.
Others saw a silver lining in this, saying the party might win more seats if it went it alone in Uttar Pradesh. They said this would also see further strengthening of the party at the grassroots level and would give a moral boost to its workers in the state.
One of the Congress leaders admitted that the party now had no choice but go it alone in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said Azad would give a structured response to it on Sunday.
"Insofar as alliances are concerned, we have always believed that state-specific alliances, which further the progressive and pluralistic ideals, which further consolidate the liberalised idea of India, are the way forward and I think there is space for that," he said.
Opposition leaders downplayed the announcement of a pre-poll tie-up between the SP and the BSP.
Asked if it was a setback for the opposition unity efforts, an opposition leader admitted it but claimed that the opposition parties were united in all the states to ensure that the secular votes were not divided.
Opposition leaders like Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury and the Rashtriya Janata Dal's Tejashwi Yadav welcomed the SP-BSP tie-up, saying the two parties would be able to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming polls in Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress has been seeking to stitch an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, but its efforts suffered a dent as the SP-BSP left the Grand Old Party out of their poll tie-up but left the two seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli, currently represented in the Lok Sabha by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi respectively.
The SP-BSP alliance will not field candidates in these two seats.