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No one for Rahul Gandhi? Congress’ 2019 dream falters as Akhilesh Yadav wants broken trip

The road to 7 Lok Kalyan Marg passes through Uttar Pradesh, literally. Being the only state with 80 Parliamentary constituencies, the state holds key in determining whether a party or a leader gets to play a leadership role – be it solo or in alliance. For Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party, recent developments are ominous. A year before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, a sense disappointment has apparently started building up in UP for the Congress and more so, for its president Rahul Gandhi who is being projected by many partymen as the 2019 prime ministerial candidate, a challenger to Narendra Modi. On its own, the Congress is no longer a party to reckon with in UP. It was decimated in the state in last years Assembly elections and barring a few MP seats, the Congress has nothing much to show. The partys only hope in UP lies in bargaining the maximum number of seats in a rumoured grand alliance featuring Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Congress, Ajit Singhs Rashtriya Lok Dal and many local parties. However, Akhilesh Yadav-led SP seems to have other plans in mind – and these do not feature Rahul Gandhi as the leader of any future anti-Modi, anti-BJP alliance. Two things stand out. First, it has now become clear to regional satraps in UP, especially after the recent by-elections in the state, that they can defeat BJP only by shunning age-old rivalries and joining hands. Secondly, political parties are wary of making 2019 a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle and Samajwadi Party appears to be thinking on the same lines. . Since the Congress doesnt own much electoral ground beyond Nehru-Gandhi family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli, parties are in no mood to give up more seats for the grand Old Party. Samajwadi Party president recently signalled he is willing to play subordinate to Mayawati in 2019 elections. After the Kairana by-election results, Akhilesh had said he was ready to give up a few seats to BSP to help the SP-BSP alliance continue. While giving up seats for ally BSP makes electoral sense, Akhilesh wont like to risk frustrating SP ticket aspirants by giving up more seats for the Congress. Reports say that Akhilesh Yadavs party is not ready to give more that two seats to the Congress – a proposition Rahul Gandhi would find humiliating. According to a report by news agency UNI, the two seats SP is willing to give the Congress are Rae Bareli and Amethi – both presently held by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi respectively. A senior leader told the news agency that Samajwadi Party is ready for an alliance with BSP as it will help the party more. Several reports say that Akhilesh is against giving key role to Congress in an anti-BJP alliance for 2019 polls. Recently, Samajwadi party decided to contest in all 230 assembly constituencies of Madhya Pradesh and in Uttarakhand, it has decided to contest on all five Parliamentary seats alone. With less than a year is left for 2019 elections, SP has not yet started grand alliance talks with the Congress in UP. Times of India today quoted an SP MLC as saying that Congress is yet to figure in alliance talks. The leader also said that SP would not break the tradition of not fielding candidates against Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in Amethi and Rae Bareli respectively. News 18 reported on Monday that Akhilesh Yadavs party doesnt want to take the Congress on board in UP as the latter doesnt fit in the narrative SP and BSP wish to build against the BJP. A close aide of Akhilesh recently told HT that his party and BSP wont need any partners if both stay together.

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