LUCKNOW Once arch-rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party announced Saturday their tie-up in Uttar Pradesh for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, sharing 38 seats each and keeping the Congress out of the alliance.
The parties, however, said they would not field candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, represented by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
They also left two seats out of the 80 in the state for smaller allies, without naming them. But there have been talks with Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal.
Making the announcement jointly with SP president Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow, BSP chief Mayawati mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
This press conference will rob the guru-chela of their sleep, she said.
"I have full confidence that just as our alliance defeated the BJP in the Lok Sabha bypolls, we will crush the saffron party in the general elections," she said, referring to the BJP's defeat in Phulpur, Gorakhpur and Kairana parliamentary bypolls.
Now on a visit to Dubai, Congress president Rahul Gandhi told reporters there that the SP and the BSP had the right to take the political decision, but his party will fight the polls in Uttar Pradesh with its full capacity.
Senior Congress leaders including the UP in-charge at All India Congress Committee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, will be in Lucknow Sunday to discuss the party's strategy, a spokesperson said.
Reacting to the alliance announcement, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Ravi Shankar Prasad said the two parties had came together just for their own survival.
In his address at the BJP national convention a little after the UP development, Modi didn't refer directly to the SP-BSP deal but dismissed opposition efforts at coalition-building as a failed experiment to bring in a helpless government.
Explaining why the Congress was not included in the alliance, Mayawati said during that party's rule over the years, poverty, unemployment and corruption grew and there were scams in defence deals.
"Just as the Bofors scam uprooted the Congress, the BJP will witness the same fate because of its involvement in the Rafale scam," she said, referring to the graft allegations against the ruling party in a deal for French military aircraft.
She also said her party has not benefitted in seat-sharing pacts with the Congress.
"In the past I have seen that our votes get transferred to the Congress, but not vice-versa. We do not gain from an alliance with the Congress, whereas the vote transfer is perfect in an SP-BSP tie-up," Mayawati said.
Drawing a parallel between the BJP and the Congress, the BSP chief said the Congress had imposed Emergency while the BJP is responsible for an undeclared Emergency.
In 2014, the BJP had won 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the largest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha.
BJP ally Apna Dal bagged two. The SP won five seats and the Congress two, while the BSP drew a blank.
At the press conference at a posh Lucknow hotel, Mayawati asserted that the two parties were entering into a long-term understanding.
This will last long, beyond Lok Sabha polls and in the UP Assembly elections, the BSP leader said.
Akhilesh Yadav avoided a direct reply when asked if he would support Mayawati for the prime minister's post if the situation arose.
You know whom I will support, he said. I have said in the past that UP has always given the PM (to the country) and I will be happy if it gives a PM again.
To a question on seat-sharing with the Rashtriya Lok Dal in western UP, the SP leader said the media would be informed in due course.
RLD spokesperson Anil Dubey later said as far as his party is concerned, the alliance talks are still on.
Yadav and Mayawati did not make it clear whether they will themselves contest the polls, which are to be held by May.
Mayawati accused the BJP of spending a massive amount of money on Shivpal Yadav, saying his recently floated Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia was being "run by the BJP.
"The money will go down the drain," she said, even as Shivpal Yadav, the estranged uncle of Akhilesh Yadav, rejected her allegation later in the day.
Mayawati said in the national interest, she had moved passed the 1995 Lucknow guest house incident, in which some SP supporters had attacked her. The last state-level alliance between the two parties had ended around that time.
Yadav asked SP workers to ensure Mayawati gets the respect due to her.
"Mayawati's respect is my respect. An insult to her is an insult to me. If any BJP men or others say anything against her, it will be against me," Yadav said, seeming to warn against a repeat of the 1995 incident.
He asked party workers to be on guard against the BJP, alleging that the party could orchestrate riots and create differences between the two opposition parties.
West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee welcomed the SP-BSP alliance.
In Varanasi, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram hoped the Lucknow announcement wasn't the last word and a broad-based alliance would be formed in the state as polls approach. But he also asserted the Congress was ready to fight alone.
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