Cong rejects Akhilesh's offer of 99 seats; alliance hangs in balance
The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance which was promising to alter the political equations for Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh seems to be in troubled waters as talks for an alliance with the SP remained stuck over the number of seats each side would contest.
Amidst building tension, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav started talks with Congress leaders through different channels to iron out the differences since Saturday morning.
At the heart of the trouble were two key issues — how many seats will each get and which seat will go to which party. By evening the talks were stalled once again. Akhilesh Yadav, who started bargaining from not more than 85 seats in the morning made the final offer by late afternoon. He has now put them all in the Congress' court by agreeing to give 99 of the 403 seats to the Congress. But the Congress wants nothing less than 110.
The two parties had sent out all the right signals till Monday last. But when the two camps sat down for seat sharing talks trouble erupted. Senior SP leaders on Saturday indicated that Akhilesh who has already announced 210 candidates — some even on seats held by Congress legislators — may announce few more if talks fail as time is running out and nominations for the first phase are ending on January 24.
The Chief Minister is not waiting for the alliance to be through in more ways. On Sunday, Akhilesh will be releasing his party's manifesto in Lucknow.
Sensing tie-up trouble, top Congress leaders had rushed to Lucknow. The Congress which has been reduced to player number four in Uttar Pradesh was eyeing the alliance to recover ground. While senior SP leaders maintain that the Congress doesn't have the footprint strength to initially demand nearly 130 seats, the Congress says anything less will hurt the national party's interests. SP sources say the alliance is not taking off as the Congress wants it to surrender some seats it had won in 2012. However, insiders say that the real tussle is over seats where minority vote holds sway.
Meanwhile, senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in charge of the party's UP affairs, held a marathon meeting with senior leaders at the party's poll "war room" in New Delhi. Possible scenarios arising from a failure to form an alliance were discussed.
Later, Azad met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and party chief Sonia Gandhi.