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Stage set for Rahul-Akhilesh alliance, all eyes on EC order over SP poll symbol

The Congress and the Samajwadi Party is likely to finalise an alliance in Uttar Pradesh after the election commission (EC) gives its ruling on claims by competing faction in the state’s ruling party’s on its election symbol, the bicycle, sources said on Wednesday.

While the two parties are yet to arrive at an agreement on the seat-sharing formula- the SP offering barely half of 120-130 seats demanded by the Congress- sources said the real reason for the delay in striking a deal was the ongoing feud in the SP’s first family. The poll panel will take a decision on the symbol on Friday.

The Congress had earlier maintained that it was ready to fight in more than 400 seats, if it goes alone.

The Congress leadership, however, always had a soft corner for chief minister Akhilesh Yadav with party’s general secretary in charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad publicly declaring that the chief minister has a “clean image” and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi describing as a “good man.”

The Congress, which has not been politically significant in India’s most populous state for more than two decades, remains a sought-after ally for the SP faction. The SP hopes to thwart Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati’s overtures towards the Muslim voters with the help of the Congress. The alliance can also fight as credible and strong secular alternative to the BJP.
The Congress, which had played the role of a junior partner to Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad in the last Bihar assembly polls, can replicate the model. Party insiders say that an alliance is the only chance of returning to power.

For the 2017 elections, the BSP has given 97 tickets to Muslim candidates — the highest ever — and is seeking to carve a Dalit-Muslim alliance. Till the SP was united, it could bank on a share of the Muslim vote. But with the division, the competition for minority loyalty has increased. It could well split four ways between the BSP, the two SP factions and the Congress.