- We have not spoken to anyone about an alliance: Congress's PL Punia
- Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati met in Delhi yesterday over UP alliance
- They may not tie up with the Congress in UP for Lok Sabha elections
A day after sources indicated that Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are looking at a mahagathbandhan or "grand alliance" in Uttar Pradesh to take on the BJP in the 2019 general elections without partnering with the Congress, a senior leader from the Rahul Gandhi-led party said they are ready to go it alone in the state.
PL Punia, a Rajya Sabha member from the Congress, today said his party is preparing to contest alone.
"A coalition is not important... Our workers are ready... We have not spoken to anyone about an alliance," he said.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party boss Mayawati met in Delhi yesterday over the seat sharing formula in Uttar Pradesh for the national elections. The two leaders, both upset with the Congress, are not too keen on allying with it in Uttar Pradesh, sources had said.
However, this afternoon, a senior Samajwadi Party leader tried to downplay the reports. Ram Gopal Yadav, uncle of Akhilesh Yadav and effectively number 2 in Samajwadi Party, said talks of sidelining the Congress are "imaginary".
"Why are you imagining?" he asked reporters.
Akhilesh Yadav had last week hinted at payback when his party's only lawmaker in Madhya Pradesh did not make it to new Chief Minister Kamal Nath's list of ministers. The Congress, he said, had gone back on its promise to do so, despite his party's role in helping the Congress reach the majority mark.
"Thanks to the Congress, they did not make our vidhayak (legislator) a minister," Akhilesh Yadav had told reporters last week. By doing so, the Congress had "cleared the path for Uttar Pradesh," he had said.
Mayawati, after ruling out a pre-poll alliance with the Congress, had reluctantly extended support to the party after the recent round of assembly elections to keep the BJP out of power in Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress fell a whisker short of majority.
Earlier this week, she said she would "reconsider" her support if the cases filed in the two states against the "innocent" during April's all-India strike by Scheduled Castes are not withdrawn. The Congress, she said, should not work like the BJP, which did not keep its promises.
Reacting to the developments, Mahendra Nath Pandey, the Uttar Pradesh BJP chief, today said "the upcoming election with be Prime Minister Narendra Modi versus all".
"Let Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati form their alliance. The BJP's alliance is with the people of the nation," he said.
The BJP and its allies had won 73 of the 80 seats in the last general elections in Uttar Pradesh, but lost Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls to Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav - who set aside their bitter rivalry to team up - last year. Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi had tied up for the UP state polls in 2017, but the results were disastrous.
Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are expected to meet again next week, sources said.