Dalit powerhouse Mayawati's shock announcement that she would not ally with the Congress in the coming elections in Madhya Pradesh has the state party on the backfoot. Kamal Nath, in charge of the elections in the state and a key interlocutor with Mayawati, indicated that the Bahujan Samaj Party chief's stance was unexpected.
"I do not know why Mayawati did what she did. We were discussing (seat sharing) with her and her party till day before yesterday," Mr Nath told NDTV in an exclusive interview. "There is no possibility of an alliance with the BSP now that she has called it off," he added.
The shock announcement from Mayawati came this afternoon after weeks of negotiations that failed to break the impasse the two parties had hit. Mayawati had demanded 40 of the state's 231 seats, but with a package deal in Rajasthan. While Madhya Pradesh Congress was agreeable to a deal though with a rider on the number of seats to be offered, the Rajasthan Congress was of the view that it would be Mayawati who would benefit from any seat sharing arrangement in the state. Mayawati made it clear that she would not make any deal unless her demands were met.
"It was not about me getting the Chief Minister's post but getting the Congress back in power," Kamal Nath told NDTV, responding to Mayawati's allegations of "sabotage" by "some leaders". "We couldn't give her the seats she demanded, which would have allowed the BJP to win easily. We did not want the vote against BJP to be fragmented," he said.
"Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi both want that the BSP and Congress party should have a tie-up for the state and Lok Sabha polls. I feel that their intentions for Congress-BSP alliance are honest... but some leaders are sabotaging it," said Mayawati, who was photographed months ago holding hands with Sonia Gandhi at the oath ceremony of HD Kumaraswamy in Karnataka. Mayawati was the ally of Mr Kumaraswamy, whose party joined hands with the Congress to keep the BJP out of power in the state.
The other key Congress leader in Madhya Pradesh, former chief minister Digvijaya Singh, reiterated his remark that Mayawati was under the Centre's pressure to not ally with his party.
"When Mayawati addressed a press conference with Jogi (September 20), she categorically said that she will not align with the Congress and went ahead to declare her party's alliance with Jogi and even announced contesting 22 seats in Madhya Pradesh unilaterally," Mr Singh said.
The central leaders of the Congress said they hoped that the BSP chief reposing her faith in Rahul and Sonia Gandhi will provide it a window of opportunity help iron out the "creases".
"Mayawati has expressed her sentiments and we respect that. She has reposed full faith in Rahul ji and Sonia ji and we respect that too. If there is harmony among Sonia Gandhi, who is our guide, and Rahul Gandhi, who is our leader, and Mayawati ji, then no fourth person can create a rift among them," party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.