- Congress leaders said they are in touch with Samajwadi Party leadership
- Priyanka Gandhi is likely to take forward the proposal for more seats
- Akhilesh Yadav is open to negotiations, Samajwadi leaders told NDTV
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's entry to active politics in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, may hold some possibility for realignment in the opposition alliance against the BJP, senior Congress leaders have hinted. Party leaders told NDTV that they are in touch with the Samajwadi Party leadership and Priyanka Gandhi is likely to take forward the proposal for more seats directly with Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Akhilesh Yadav is open to negotiations, Samajwadi leaders told NDTV, but the challenge, they said, is convincing Mayawati. On record though, the parties are unwilling to comment on any possibility of renegotiations. "This is something I cannot comment on," Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh Pramod Tiwari told NDTV.
Priyanka Gandhi had handled the alliance negotiations with Akhilesh Yadav ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, but the results had been disastrous for both parties. Even so, while the Yadav junior had not ruled out future alliances, seat sharing talks for the last round of assembly elections in the heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had proved a deal breaker.
Akhilesh Yadav and more so Mayawati, were upset at the unyielding stance of local leaders of the Congress and cut the party out of the alliance in Uttar Pradesh, even if their lawmakers are supporting the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The Congress, since, announced that they will contest all 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, crucial for any party that hopes to rule at the Centre. As part of his commitment, Rahul Gandhi has dispatched his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and close aide Jyotioraditya Scindia to spearhead the party's poll preparations in the state.
While Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi party had agreed to contest 38 seats each in Uttar Pradesh, Congress leaders now say they hope to convince Akhilesh Yadav to give them at least 8-10 seats.
SP leaders, however, rule this out. "If we are left with just 28 seats, it doesn't work out for us. It has to be adjusted between both parties,'' they said. There was, however, a disclaimer: "But Akhilesh ji wants the best situation to defeat the BJP.''
An official spokesperson for the former UP Chief Minister said that such reports were "speculative".
The window the Congress sees is because while the seats have been formalised between the BSP and the SP, they haven't announced them publicly just yet.
Aparna Yadav, the sister-in-law of Akhilesh Yadav, has told NDTV that Priyanka Gandhi was an asset and if she was made the alliance's Chief Ministerial face in 2017, the elections could have gone very differently.
The Congress' internal calculations indicate that besides the Gandhi family strongholds of Amethi and Raebareli, they have a good chance in seats like Unnao, Kanpur, Barabanki, Pratapgarh and some seats in western UP.
Congress strategists have emphasised that they are positioning the party to get upper caste votes. One of the key groups that are upset with the government is the Brahmins and party strategists indicate that they hope to cash in on it. The selective approach will also avoid any kind of conflict that they may have with the SP-BSP vote.