- Congress won't field candidates for Kairana and Noorpur bypolls in UP
- Says it would improve chances of opposition's grand alliance to trump BJP
- Last-minute SP-BSP alliance had cost the BJP Gorakhpur, Phulpur seats
A last-minute alliance between Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samajwadi Party had cost the BJP two places in Lok Sabha including the Gorakhpur seat that had been occupied by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for nearly two decades. The spectacular victory raised hopes in the opposition camp that they could defeat the BJP in the 2019 elections if they played their cards well.
This week, BSP chief Mayawati confirmed to NDTV that her alliance with Akhilesh Yadav would hold good for next year's general elections but underlined that the details of the pact would be worked out closer to the date.
A Congress leader said the party had decided against contesting the bypolls slated for 28 May, though the party did have a considerable base in some pockets.
The bypolls were necessitated due to the death of the BJP's sitting lawmakers; Hukum Singh from Kairana and Lokendra Chauhan from Noorpur. The BJP has fielded Hukum Singh's daughter Mirganka Singh and Lokendra Chauhan's wife Avani Singh from the two seats.
The opposition's grand alliance has decided to field the Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal's Tabassum Begam from Kairana Lok Sabha seat and the Samajwadi Party's Naimul Hasan from Noorpur assembly segment.
The Congress's central leadership was inclined to pull out of the by-elections but did not go that far because it didn't want to antagonise its local leaders and it was too late to withdraw. The Congress candidates ended up with a humiliating 2 per cent vote share, a fraction of what it got at the peak of the Modi super wave of 2014.
Congress boss Rahul Gandhi, who was once seen as a critic of pre-poll alliances since they weaken the party organisation, has in recent years had a change of heart.
Of late, he has become such a strong advocate of opposition unity that went so far as to prophesise in Bengaluru recently that PM Narendra Modi could lose the 2019 elections because "opposition unity" has crossed the threshold needed to defeat the BJP-led national coalition.
The outcome in Kairana is seen as a good indicator of how potent this template of opposition unity is. In the 2014 elections, the BJP's Hukum Singh had secured 50.5 per cent, much more than all candidates put together. But opposition leaders suggest a common candidate seen to a match for the BJP could help consolidate their supporters and ensure that they turn up for voting.
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