Cong, SP heading for alliance in UP, rift on crucial seats still haunts

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi Sep 1 | Updated: Sep 3 2008, 05:18am hrs
Alliance talks between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh made a good start on Monday but the shadow of a collapse remained in the backdrop with signs that differences could widen in future rounds over crucial seats that would have to be sacrificed by both sides.

The SP, led by party general secretary Amar Singh sought to extend the alliance to four other states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Karnataka during the three-hour long first round in which the Congress side was represented by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi along with AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Just like Congress is asking for more seats in UP, despite being weak there, similarly we also asked them to help us in states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, where we have a marginal presence, Amar Singh said. Though Digvijay Singh and Rita are not authorised to speak about any other state apart from UP, I took the advantage of Rahuls presence and sought the Congress alliance in other states also, he added. The Congress leadership, though, did not seem eager to extend the alliance with Digvijay Singh contending on Monday evening that the discussions were only in context with Uttar Pradesh.

Both sides, however, sought to send out warm signals of goodwill, as they agreed that winnability would have to the primary criteria in the selection of candidates. The SP also maintained that whatever the outcome of the talks, they would not be putting up candidates in Rae Bareilly and Amethi, the constituencies of Sonia and Rahul. Amar Singh maintained that both parties would field strong candidates with grassroot support, who could give a tough fight to their opponents.

Party circles, though , maintained that the next rounds (the second one is scheduled on September 8) could become tougher as specific seats would be debated. Constituencies like Rampur, for instance, could pose difficulty where a tough fight was witnessed in the last election between SP nominee Jayaprada and Congress candidate Begum Noor Bano. A similar situation also exists in Farrukhabad seat where SP candidate Chandra Bhooshan had defeated Congress nominee and wife of senior party leader Salman Khursheed by a narrow margin. This time Khursheed himself is gearing up to contest Lok Sabha election from this seat.

Another constituency which may pose problems is Pratapgarh, where Congress nominee Ratna Singh was defeated by SPs Akshay Pratap Singh in the last time. In Padrauna too, Congress candidate RPN Singh is angling for a ticket. He was placed second after being defeated by Baleshwar Yadav, who contested as an independent candidate but later joined SP.