News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » Will Congress-SP War In MP Rock INDIA Boat?

Will Congress-SP War In MP Rock INDIA Boat?

By Radhika Ramaseshan
November 08, 2023 14:18 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

'At no point did Kamal Nath and Digvijaya indicate that the Opposition bloc was formed only to fight the Lok Sabha polls.'

IMAGE: Madhya Pradesh Congress President Kamal Nath being presented a mace by Gautam Singh Patel, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Gadarwara, who left the BJP and joined the Congress, at the Pradesh Congress Committee office in Bhopal, October 16, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

An incipient effort to project the Opposition's Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc as a cohesive anti-Bharatiya Janata Party front before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls came up short after seat-sharing negotiations between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party for the November Madhya Pradesh polls broke down for several reasons.

Indeed, the talks never progressed beyond a few phone conversations between the SP's national President Akhilesh Yadav and Kamal Nath, the Congress MP chief, and Digvijaya Singh, the former chief minister, along with a round of discussions between the two and the SP's MP representatives.

"The Congress initiated the exercise, following which I asked my MP President Ramayan Singh Patel and his colleagues to meet the Congress leaders," Akhilesh told Business Standard.

However, before the negotiations could advance, the Congress had already announced its candidates for all but one of the 230 assembly seats.

In response, the SP released two lists of nine and 22 nominees, respectively.

Akhilesh claimed he was unaware that the INDIA alliance did not intend to contest assembly elections jointly in states where non-Congress constituents had a presence and had previously won seats, such as in MP.

"At no point did Kamal Nath and Digvijaya indicate that the Opposition bloc was formed only to fight the Lok Sabha polls. Why did they invite our leaders and keep them detained until past midnight, giving the impression that they were serious about forging a regional alliance?" asked Akhilesh

"To my shock, their lists contained the names of former SP candidates from the districts bordering Uttar Pradesh," the SP president alleged.

The SP was apparently so intrigued by the purported offer that its state negotiators came armed with data on the seats contested and won, along with the vote percentages polled since 2003, to 'strengthen' their case for obtaining 'six or seven' seats.

In the last election in 2018, the SP won only one seat, Bijawar (Chhatarpur district), but with a margin of 67,000 votes.

Bala Bachchan, the MP Congress' working president, said, "At no point was the INDIA alliance intended to contest state polls together."

"It's unfortunate that negative statements are emerging, but they should not be taken seriously because INDIA remains committed to challenging the BJP as a united front in the parliamentary polls," Bachchan stated.

Congress sources indicated that the main reason Kamal Nath and Digvijaya showed "passing interest" in the seat-sharing talks was that they were "heavily invested" in the MP polls and believed they had a "good chance" of wresting the state from the BJP, having won the 2018 elections and later losing a government to the BJP in 2020.

A source stated, "At no stage did the high command show an interest."

Congress President Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge was not in the picture.

The rapport that Akhilesh and Rahul Gandhi briefly shared during the 2017 UP elections, which were fought jointly by the SP and Congress but ultimately lost, has all but evaporated.

Like Kharge, Rahul was not involved in the MP frame.

With the big leaguers absent from the scene, it appeared as though those in UP scrambled to weigh in on the MP activities and scuttle the endeavour.

The shadow of recent tensions between the Congress and SP, evident at various points in UP, hung over MP.

"SP is being petulant. In the recent by-polls, not only did the Congress not field a candidate in the Ghosi assembly, but our workers supported the SP in every way," said a former UP Congress legislator, adding, "We deserve credit for the SP's victory. But what did we get in return? The SP fielded a candidate in Bageshwar (Uttarakhand assembly by-poll), which we narrowly lost to the BJP because the SP split our votes."

Ajay Rai, UP Congress president, didn't help matters when he took over in August this year. After the MP talks fell apart, he stated, "If you (Akhilesh) are part of the INDIA alliance, you will see what the situation is in each state. In MP, there is a battle between the Congress and BJP, so the SP should support the Congress."

The SP's lone legislator in 2018, Rajesh Kumar, initially supported the Kamal Nath dispensation when it fell short of numbers (at Akhilesh's 'behest') and later joined the BJP after the Congress government was toppled.

While Ajay Rai declared that the Congress was gearing up to contest all 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP, the ace up SP's sleeve is that it remains the BJP's primary opponent.

More importantly, it has a strong presence in the Amethi and Rae Bareli parliamentary seats, the traditional fiefs of the Gandhis until Smriti Irani of the BJP wrenched Amethi from Rahul in 2019.

Smriti lost by a narrow margin in 2014 when Rahul retained Amethi thanks to the SP's decision not to field a candidate and instead direct its local heavyweights like Gayatri Prasad Prajapati to work for the Congress.

As Shivpal Singh Yadav, the SP's national general secretary and Akhilesh's uncle, declared that his party would participate in the 2024 polls as part of the INDIA bloc, Akhilesh's caveat was, "Let the Congress come to me in Lucknow next year with data on its performance. I will review it and make a decision."

"If the Congress continues to behave like this, who will trust it?"

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Radhika Ramaseshan
Source: source
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024