BI­HAR: BOOM TIME FOR BOOTLEGGERS

India Today - - INSIDE - By Piyush Ba­bele

POLL AL­LIANCE

LGETTING IN­VOLVED Priyanka Gandhi leav­ing the res­i­dence of Congress leader Ghu­lam Nabi Azad after a meet­ing ike an ex­humed corpse that sits up with­out warn­ing, the Congress finds it­self re­sus­ci­tated by its al­liance with the Sa­ma­jwadi Party. Fresh en­ergy seems to have been in­fused into the Ut­tar Pradesh polls too, which be­gin on Fe­bru­ary 11. After fev­ered spec­u­la­tion and wide ac­knowl­edge­ment that a tie-up would be the ob­vi­ous counter to a BJP that had en­joyed great suc­cess in UP in the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion, an­nex­ing 71 of 80 seats, the worst-kept se­cret in town was con­firmed on Sun­day evening, Jan­uary 22, at a lux­ury ho­tel in Lucknow.

The Congress will field can­di­dates in 105 seats and se­nior part­ner SP in 298. Some last-minute hag­gling led to fur­ther spec­u­la­tion and rub­ber­neck­ing in the press be­fore Congress gen­eral sec­re­tary Ahmed Pa­tel con­firmed on Twit­ter that an agree­ment had been reached. Pa­tel, who dou­bles as Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi’s Man Fri­day, namechecked Priyanka Gandhi in par­tic­u­lar. Sources fa­mil­iar with the ne­go­ti­a­tions said sev­eral se­nior lead­ers in both the SP and Congress were un­happy and tried to block the al­liance.

But in re­fut­ing one set of spec­u­la­tive re­ports, Pa­tel set off a flurry of fur­ther ex­cited spec­u­la­tion. Ex­actly what role

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