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Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati today (Thursday, Feb 21) announced the seat sharing formula between them in Uttar Pradesh (UP), upsetting any Congress plans or hopes of finding a place in the arrangement to form a larger coalition – a grand alliance – against BJP in the state for 2019 Lok Sabha election.

The SP-BSP alliance also annoyed SP founder and Akhilesh’s father Mulayam Singh who viewed this as a decline of the party that, under him, had formed government thrice in the state on its own strength.

The arrangement should also be a relief for the BJP which was staring at a major decline in its existing tally of 71 out of 80 seats from UP. With Congress getting energised under its revamped state leadership under Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia and its campaign expected to pick up steam, the contest is set to become three-cornered. The resultant split in anti-BJP votes would be a boon for the party.

The list announced today has 75 of the state’s 80 seats, of which Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party gets 38 seats and the Samajwadi Party 37.

The seats of Amethi and Rae Bareli – represented by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi respectively – have been left untouched as promised by Mayawati. The remaining three are expected to go to Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal.

While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had said the Congress will contest all 80 seats in the state, a section within the party still held onto hopes of a rethink by Mayawati after the entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra into active politics.

But the Dalit leader, upset with the Congress after seat sharing talks for the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh fell through, did not budge.

To questions whether the entry of the Congress will divert votes from the SP-BSP alliance and help the BJP, leaders of both parties had responded in the negative. They said the hopes were rather that the Congress will draw upper caste votes, which would have gone to the BJP.

The two leaders had announced a tie-up for the parliamentary elections last month, ignoring the Congress in their election strategy to counter the ruling BJP. Explaining the reason of not including Congress in the alliance Mayawati said there’s “no real vote transfer” from Congress.

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The BSP and the SP had then decided to put up candidates on equal number of seats. But the release signed by the two party chiefs named one less constituency for the Samajwadi Party.

Under the arrangement announced today, Yadav’s party will contest some of the key urban seats. The 37 seats in the SP quota include Kairana, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Mainpuri, Firozabad, Badaun, Bareilly, Lucknow, Etawah, Kanpur, Kannauj, Jhansi, Banda, Allahabad, Kaushambi, Phulpur, Faizabad, Gonda, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Varanasi and Mirzapur. The SP is also going to fight on Varanasi seat, the home turf of PM Modi.

The BSP will contest from Saharanpur, Bijnor, Nagina, Aligarh, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Dhaurahara, Sitapur, Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Kaiserganj, Basti, Salempur, Jaunpur, Bhadohi and Deoria, among other constituencies.

The Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav expressed his displeasure over the alliance in a press conference in Lucknow today.

Addressing party workers at the SP headquarters in Lucknow, Mulayam Singh made clear that he was unhappy with Mayawati’s BSP being given half of the seats in the alliance in Uttar Pradesh in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

“Party ko khatam kaun kar raha hai? Apni hi party ke log. Itni mazboot party bani thi. Akele 3 baar sarkar banai, teeno baar hum CM rahe, Raksha Mantri bhi rahe, mazboot party thi. Hum rajneeti nahi kar rahe, lekin hum sahi baat rakh rahe hain (Who is finishing the party? Its own people. It was such a strong party. Thrice it formed government on its own, all three times I became chief minister, also became Defence Minister. It was a strong party. I am not talking any politics, but saying what is correct),” ANI quoted him as saying.

He reportedly told the party workers that the BJP’s election preparation was better.

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“Today, we are contesting only on half the seats. It is my son who has forged this alliance. Had it been me, things would have been different,” he rued, adding that despite his status as the party patriarch, his work has remained undefined.

“The female representation has also gone down drastically in the party, which is a matter of concern. And the names of the candidates should have been finalised by now, else BJP will take lead,” he criticised further.

“We have a direct fight with the BJP. However, now our seats have been halved, which has also trimmed down our workers in turn. Somebody should tell me on what basis we are fighting only on half of the seats,” he added.

The party’s patriarch had earlier raised eyebrows in Parliament on the last day of Budget Session when he wishing for Narendra Modi to return as the prime minister. The gesture was a marked departure from the anti-Modi stand taken by son Akhilesh and the opposition parties.

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