Why Akhilesh Yadav softened stand on seat-sharing with Congress

Yadav believes any further delay will dim chances of a credible anti-BJP alliance

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav addresses a press conference, in Moradabad | PTI Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav addresses a press conference, in Moradabad | PTI

The Samajwadi Party and the Congress on Wednesday finalised a seat-sharing agreement for the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. As per the deal, the SP will contest on 62 seats in Uttar Pradesh and the Congress on 17.

The announcement was made at a joint press conference in Lucknow by SP state chief Naresh Uttam Patel, SP national general secretary Rajendra Chaudhary, Congress state president Ajay Rai and AICC in-charge of UP Avinash Pande.

Among the 17 seats on which the Congress will contest in UP included Raebareli, Amethi and Varanasi.

Given the emerging situation in the  politically crucial state, it is a case of ‘better late than never’. The efforts to form a serious bloc against the BJP in the state had dissipated recently with many of the allies deserting the SP, which remains the only viable opposition force.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has thrown in its lot with the BJP while former SP leader Swami Prasad Maurya is likely to form his own party. The Apna Dal (K), too, has drifted away. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has reiterated its decision to go it alone. 

Where does that leave the SP which had till now moved very slowly on firming up its alliances? Akhilesh Yadav had earlier refused to join Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra till a seat-sharing formula was finalised. 

A wiser Yadav now, perhaps, understands that any further delay will dim the possibility of a credible alliance against the BJP.

In the 2019 polls, Yadav’s disdain for the Congress was clear when he said that the party should be happy with two seats (Rae Bareli and Amethi) it had been doled out. This time, the initial offer was 11 seats, which the Congress refused to accept.

Yadav softened his stand by offering 17 seats to the grand old party.

It is clear that the Congress, which has only one Lok Sabha seat from the state presently, is not looking to conjure any miracles in the 2024 elections. But if the party doesn’t have enough seats to contest, it will be unable to gauge its position for the next state polls. And subsequently for the 2029 Lok Sabha polls. 

Yadav’s attitude has done the opposition no favours. Politics has little space for stubbornness. Instead of strengthening his alliance with those who fought the 2022 state elections with him, his party is now holding talks with ‘single person shows’ like Raghuraj Pratap Singh, the founder of the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) party. 

Yadav’s obduration was also visible in the Rajya Sabha elections. He refused to discuss options with the Apna Dal (K), but handed out a ticket for a fifth consecutive time to Jaya Bachchan, days after her husband attended the Pran Pratishtha ceremony at Ayodhya. There was also unease within the party over the offer of an RS ticket to former chief secretary Alok Ranjan. 

 The seat-sharing announcement is Yadav’s bid to prevent a complete breakdown of a tenuous opposition unity.

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