Dashing the hopes of a 'maha gathbandhan' against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party on Thursday ruled out any alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) but asserted that it would have a tie-up with Congress.
"We will forge an alliance only with the Congress. We will not ally with the RLD. No talks are going on with them (RLD). We will contest from over 300 seats (out of 403) and the Congress will be there for the rest of them," SP national vice president Kironmoy Nanda said.
The decisions regarding forging an alliance and seats were taken at a marathon six-hour meeting held by CM and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav with senior party leaders on Thursday. Sources said the RLD wanted more seats than what the SP was ready to part with.
"We wanted the seats of our choice but there was no agreement on it," RLD spokesman Anil Dubey said, declining to elaborate. Congress reportedly offered some 20 seats to RLD chief Ajit Singh's son Jayant Choudhary, who is in touch with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. According to insiders, Singh has said he will not accept less than 30 seats and was now contemplating going solo.
"If the Congress wants to work out a deal with the RLD from its share (of seats), that is up to them," Nanda said. In the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, the RLD had won only nine seats. Two years later, in the Lok Sabha election, large swaths of Jats, who account for 17 per cent of western UP's voters, spurned the party for the BJP. The Jats are, however, upset as the BJP has not included them in caste-based groups entitled to government jobs and admission in educational institutions.
Nanda said the details of the seats would be announced by SP national president Akhilesh Yadav.
"After the alliance with the Congress, we will get an absolute majority in the state and Akhilesh will become chief minister again," he asserted, adding that the SP will release its poll manifesto soon.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, the SP had won 224 seats with a vote share of 29.3 per cent, while the Congress had bagged 28 seats with an 11.7 per cent vote share. As regards finalisation of candidates, Nanda said, "SP has finalised its candidates for the first and second phases (of the upcoming polls). Now, it is up to the Congress to decide on their nominees."
Meanwhile, assuming full control of SP as its national president, Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday revoked expulsion of minister Pawan Pandey in Uttar Pradesh, a day after taking back into the party nine MLCs and youth wing leaders sacked for indiscipline by his warring uncle Shivpal Yadav.
The decision to revoke these tit-for-tat expulsions during the bitter power tussle in the ruling party was a foregone conclusion though formal orders to this effect were issued later.
This is the first major decision taken by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as the SP national President, days after Election Commission ordered that his faction will get the 'bicycle' symbol.