“Ready To Go It Alone”: Congress Leader Amid Talks Of UP Alliance Snub

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Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have called a joint press conference tomorrow.

New Delhi:

The Congress is ready to contest the Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh on its own, a senior state leader said on Friday amid speculation that the party will be kept out of an alliance between Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the state.

Rajiv Bakshi, Congress media coordinator, said the Congress is the largest Opposition party in the country and so it cannot be ignored from alliances of like-minded parties to stop the NDA government from forming the government at the centre. "We alone have 45 seats in the Lok Sabha and it is any day many more than the regional players… a 'mahagathbandhan' in the Lok Sabha elections need to be built around the party having a national face," Mr Bakshi was quoted by news agency PTI.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in an interview to Gulf News ahead of his visit to UAE on January 11, had also claimed he was confident the party will "surprise people" in Uttar Pradesh. His comments were the first indication of the party's plan B after the regional players seemed to have deserted it. Mr Gandhi will soon meet UP Congress chief Raj Babbar and AICC in-charge of party affairs in the state Ghulam Nabi Azad to discuss the matter, news agency PTI said. "There are chances that (Rahul) Gandhi will set up a committee to finalise issues concerning elections," a party leader was quoted as saying by PTI.

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Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have called a joint press conference tomorrow in Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow for what is widely believed to be an announcement of their alliance for the national election due by May. Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have been in talks for weeks and last week, their meeting in Delhi raised a lot of talk over reports that the two former chief ministers had decided on a "mahagatbandhan" or grand coalition leaving the Congress out of the equation.

Over the week, the two leaders put out press statements that specifically referred to the word "gathbandhan". The BSP chief had also expressed solidarity with Akhilesh Yadav amid reports that the CBI may question him on investigations into a mining scam that allegedly took place when he was chief minister. "Don't be shaken," she advised.

Akhilesh Yadav returned the favour when he condemned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks at a rally in Agra on Mayawati "forgetting" an attack on her by Samajwadi party workers in 1995 for "political gains". "PM Modi is scared of the alliance," said Akhilesh Yadav.

A Samajwadi Party leader had on Sunday said his party, together with the BSP, is strong enough to defeat the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming general election and there is no need of an "insignificant" force like the Congress to make it happen.

In 2014, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal managed to win a whopping 73 of Uttar Pradesh's 80 parliamentary seats, while the BSP, Samajwadi party and the Congress were decimated.

Akhilesh Yadav's attempt to retain power in Uttar Pradesh by joining hands with the Congress for the 2017 state polls also flopped miserably as the BJP came to power with a huge majority.

Last year, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati decided to bury their legendary rivalry and pool in their resources in three bypoll contests. The alliance snagged three BJP seats; Gorakhpur was won by Nishad Party, Kairana by the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Phulpur by the Samajwadi Party. It gave them hope that together, they can pull voters away from the BJP.

With additional inputs from PTI

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