Con­gress to con­test all 80 seats in U.P., but doors open for al­lies

Fight for Par­lia­ment is be­tween us and BJP, says Ghu­lam Nabi Azad

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Omar Rashid

The Con­gress on Sun­day an­nounced that it was pre­pared to con­test all 80 seats in Ut­tar Pradesh in the up­com­ing Lok Sabha elec­tions. The de­ci­sion comes a day after the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) and the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) an­nounced an al­liance carv­ing up the seats be­tween them.

How­ever, Con­gress gen­eral sec­re­tary in-charge of U.P. Ghu­lam Nabi Azad said the party was will­ing to “ac­com­mo­date other sec­u­lar par­ties or in­di­vid­u­als” if they were will­ing to join as part of an al­liance, and would “em­brace” other re­gional par­ties.

Ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence here after a meet­ing with State lead­ers, Mr. Azad said the party was open to take the sup­port of other par­ties in its fight against the BJP.

Na­tional player

Stress­ing the po­si­tion of the Con­gress as a key na­tional player, he said, “The whole world knows that the fight for Par­lia­ment is one be­tween the Con­gress and the BJP,” and the con­test be­tween the two was not “per­sonal” but a “fight of prin­ci­ples” and to keep In­dia united. “Un­der the lead­er­ship of Rahul Gandhi, we will fight with full force based on the ide­ol­ogy of the Con­gress...We will fight strongly and de­feat the BJP. We re­spect all those par­ties who will help us in this fight,” said Mr. Azad.

He ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the party would dou­ble its tally of 2009 when fight­ing alone it had se­cured over 20 seats in U.P.

The Con­gress was snubbed on Satur­day as BSP chief Mayawati and SP pres­i­dent Akhilesh Ya­dav an­nounced they would be con­test­ing 38 seats each. The BSP chief went on to dis­miss the party as be­ing “sim­i­lar” to the BJP in its pol­i­tics and think­ing.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions on the SP-BSP al­liance, Mr. Azad said the Con­gress didn’t break the al­liance and though it wanted to walk with other par­ties to de­feat the BJP, it “can­not force any­one [to join hands].” Since the SP-BSP had “closed the chap­ter,” the Con­gress would now con­tinue the fight against the BJP, said Mr. Azad.

The Con­gress leader stressed that it was wrong to say that party lead­ers and work­ers were dis­mayed by the SP-BSP re­jec­tion. If any party can chal­lenge the BJP at the na­tional level, it is the

Con­gress, he said.

“This is not a State fight. This is fight for Par­lia­ment, for Delhi,” he em­pha­sised.

As part of its cam­paign, the Con­gress has also re­port­edly planned 13 pub­lic meet­ings for Mr. Gandhi across the State in Fe­bru­ary.

Mean­while, a day after his joint press con­fer­ence with Ms. Mayawati, SP chief Akhilesh Ya­dav said that after the an­nounce­ment of the al­liance, not only the BJP and its en­tire or­gan­i­sa­tion, but even the party cadre had lost courage.

“De­mor­alised and frus­trated BJP lead­ers and work­ers are des­per­ate to join the SP-BSP, he tweeted.

RA­JEEV BHATT ■

Clear aim: Con­gress lead­ers Ghu­lam Nabi Azad and Raj Bab­bar speak­ing in Lucknow on Sun­day.

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