Con­gress will con­test all 80 seats in UP on its own

Party will ac­com­mo­date any sec­u­lar force that can chal­lenge the BJP

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - HT Cor­re­spon­dent

We wanted Con­gress to be a part of the grand al­liance [against the BJP]... But if some­one does not want to walk along, noth­ing can be done. The Con­gress will con­test the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Ut­tar Pradesh and de­feat the BJP GHU­LAM NABI AZAD, Cong leader

LUCKNOW : The Con­gress on Sun­day an­nounced its de­ci­sion to con­test all 80 Ut­tar Pradesh seats in the up­com­ing Lok Sabha elec­tions and said it was will­ing to ac­com­mo­date sec­u­lar forces, a day after the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) and the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) said they were ty­ing up in the state with­out the Rahul Gandhi-led party in the fold.

SP pres­i­dent Akhilesh Ya­dav and BSP chief Mayawati on Satur­day de­clared an al­liance for the gen­eral elec­tions, in which each will con­test 38 seats in Ut­tar Pradesh, leav­ing two for smaller al­lies, and stay­ing away from the Gandhi fam­ily bas­tions of Ame­thi and Rae Bareli.

Con­gress gen­eral sec­re­tary in-charge of Ut­tar Pradesh Ghu­lam Nabi Azad said his party was ready to take on board any sec­u­lar force that was ca­pa­ble of chal­leng­ing the rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He said the Con­gress pres­i­dent will hold at least 13 elec­tion cam­paign ral­lies in the state.

“We wanted the Con­gress to be a part of the grand al­liance [against the BJP] in Ut­tar Pradesh. But if some­one does not want to walk along, noth­ing can be done,” Azad told re­porters after a meet­ing of Con­gress lead­ers to dis­cuss the party’s strat­egy fol­low­ing the SP-BSP com­bine’s an­nounce­ment.

“The Con­gress will con­test on all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Ut­tar Pradesh and de­feat the BJP,” he said.

“If any party is will­ing to ac­com­pany the Con­gress and the Con­gress feels that it can fight the BJP, then it will def­i­nitely be ac­com­mo­dated,” Azad added.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions, the SP won five seats, while the BSP failed to win any. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got 71 seats and its ally Apna Dal two seats out of the to­tal 80.

The Con­gress won Rae Bareli and Ame­thi — held by United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance chair­per­son So­nia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

In the 2017 assem­bly polls, SP and BSP got 22% votes each while the BJP got 42.6% votes, win­ning 312 of the to­tal 403 seats.

The SP and BSP chose not to in­clude the Con­gress in their bat­tle against the BJP, say­ing that there is no real gain in align­ing with the party.

“Con­gress party rule hasn’t ben­e­fit­ted any­one. There’s no real vote trans­fer from Con­gress and hence no real gain from align­ing with Con­gress. We won’t ally with any party which will hurt our po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions,” Mayawati said. A day after his joint news con­fer­ence with Mayawati, Ya­dav said the al­liance has un­nerved the BJP so much that the party’s de­mor­alised and des­per­ate lead­ers and work­ers now want to join the SP and BSP. Re­spond­ing to ques­tions over be­ing left out of the SP-BSP al­liance, Azad said: “The Con­gress work­ers are not at all dis­ap­pointed on be­ing left out of the al­liance. On the con­trary, they are say­ing the party would have had to con­test on 25 seats, but now it would be con­test­ing on all the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state.” Azad ac­cused the BJP of di­vid­ing the coun­try for power and said that the saf­fron party failed to ful­fil its poll prom­ises. “The com­ing Lok Sabha elec­tion is a bat­tle to unite In­dia and safe­guard the demo­cratic val­ues,” he said.

Re­act­ing to the Con­gress’s an­nounce­ment, UP BJP spokesper­son Chan­dramo­han said: “The fear of the BJP and Modiji is mak­ing the op­po­si­tion ner­vous. Be it Con­gress or the rest, they are re­ally wor­ried and we un­der­stand their des­per­a­tion.”

PTI

Con­gress lead­ers Ghu­lam Nabi Azad (L) and Raj Bab­bar ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence in Lucknow on Sun­day.

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