P Chidambaram said a truly broad-based alliance will be formed in Uttar Pradesh (File)
The announcement of the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav alliance in Uttar Pradesh for the upcoming national elections may have aimed to give BJP sleepless nights, but it hasn't come as a comfort for the Congress either. Left out of the alliance but courteously given the two seats that it has historically held, the Congress is maintaining a cautious silence, officially. However, party leader P Chidambaram is still hopeful of a change of heart of the two major regional players in the state.
"Perhaps this (the decision to leave out the Congress) isn't the last word, maybe there will be some rethink as the elections approach. A truly broad-based alliance will be formed in Uttar Prasesh. If necessary, the Congress party will contest elections on its own strength," he was quoted by news agency ANI.
Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati announced their alliance for the 2019 general elections today, saying their parties – Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – will contest 38 seats each. They said there was no real gain if they had included the Congress. But they are willing to leave the Amethi and Raebareli constituencies – both Congress bastions – for the Rahul Gandhi-led party.
"There is not much benefit to us from allying with the Congress. We have decided that we will not tie up with a party like the Congress across the country where they can't transfer votes to us," said Mayawati.
Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad refused to give an official response from the party, saying the stand would be made clear on Sunday.
The Congress top brass in Uttar Pradesh is in a huddle following the announcement of the alliance. Mr Azad met Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh and former lawmaker Pramod Tiwari at his residence.
Ever since the BSP and SP indicated that they were considering to leave out the party, the Congress leadership has started preparation for a solo fight in the state. They have been meeting leaders from the western parts of the state for the past two days, news agency PTI report. Mr Azad said he would meet the leaders and workers of the party from central and eastern Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari also stressed on the need for state-specific alliances.
"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.
The Congress was hoping for a pan-India alliance with major regional parties to defeat the BJP. The party had been in talks with regional leaders including Trinamool's Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, National Conference's Farooq Abdullah, TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu. These leaders displayed the opposition unity on many occasions. However, DMK leader MK Stalin's suggestion that Rahul Gandhi should be the prime ministerial face of the block exposed rift in the opposition ranks.
The Congress attracted acrimony from Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav as well. While their talks with Mayawati of a pre-poll alliance for assembly polls went south over seat-sharing agreement, Mr Yadav was peeved after his lone MLA was not included in Kamal Nath's cabinet in Madhya Pradesh.
There have been talks of a federal alliance without the Congress. K Chandrashekar Rao has met with Mamata Banerjee and BJD's Naveen Patnaik. While Mr Patnaik has decided to go solo, Mr Banerjee has not spoken anything on the topic. She is organising an opposition rally in Kolkata on January 19 in which she is expected to project herself as the leader of the block.