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Sonia Gandhi Intervenes To Protect Turf With Akhilesh Yadav

Sonia Gandhi Intervenes To Protect Turf With Akhilesh Yadav

NEW DELHI: Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, has now stepped in as her party attempts to salvage an alliance with the Samajwadi Party for the Uttar Pradesh elections after hectic negotiations hit a wall, with both sides declaring that the other was making unreasonable demands for seats to contest. Mrs Gandhi’s closest aides are reportedly working the phones tonight on her behalf to convince the Samajwadi Party that the Congress must get to contest at least 104, a downgrade from the 138 it wanted, of UP’s 403 seats. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s final offer on Saturday afternoon was 99 seats.
At the heart of the dispute is not just how many seats each party will contest, but also which seats. After declaring candidates for nine seats that the Congress won last time in its first two lists, the Samajwadi Party is adamant that it will also not return the favour in Raebareli and Amethi, the parliamentary constituencies of Sonia Gandhi and her son and deputy Rahul Gandhi.There are 10 assembly seats in Raebareli and Amethi, seven of which were won by the Samajwadi Party in the last assembly election and two were won by the Congress. Akhilesh Yadav is clear he will not yield those seats to the Congress just because of the alliance. For the Congress it is a major prestige point.Akhilesh Yadav on Friday announced candidates for 209 constituencies which will vote in the first two phases of the UP election, including nine in western UP which were won by the Congress in the last assembly elections in 2012.
The Samajwadi Party has not yet announced candidates for the assembly seats in RaeBareli and Amethi, which will vote in later phases. UP will votes in seven phases starting February 11 and results will be announced on March 11.With the proposed alliance already collapsing, Saturday began with hectic negotiations between Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leaders. But by evening, the talks were stalled once again, prompting the Congress chief to step in.The Samajwadi Party has argued that in 2012 election, the Congress performed better than the Samajwadi Party only in 54 seats in UP. It thus sees the offer of 99 seats as more than generous. The Congress says as a national party it cannot be treated as a fringe player. Also, sources said, it hopes to get the post of Deputy Chief Minister if the alliance wins and for that it would need to have enough seats to be a significant partner in a coalition government.
The Congress has been reduced to number four in Uttar Pradesh and is eyeing the alliance to recover ground. Senior Samajwadi Party leaders say the Congress simply does not have the strength currently to make the demands it has – the party began negotiations by seeking 130 seats.The two parties had sent out all the right signals till Monday last, with the Congress informally announcing the alliance. A formal announcement was expected on Friday evening.

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