Despite Cong pressure, SP wants Mulayam aide to fight from Amethi Assembly seat
Amethi and Rae Bareli are considered the Congress party's pet boroughs, and are seen as an issue of prestige for the grand old party.
However, no matter the party's success rate in Lok Sabha elections, in Assembly polls, its success hasn't been guaranteed in these districts. For example, in the previous Uttar Pradesh polls in 2012, the Congress had won just two of the 10 Assembly segments across the two Lok Sabha constituencies.
This time around, the Congress may not even get to contest the Amethi Assembly constituency, thanks to its alliance with the Samajwadi Party.
SP chief and UP CM Akhilesh Yadav told a website that a deal had already been reached between the parties on the contentious issue of seat-sharing in these two districts.
Akhilesh made it clear that Gayatri Prajapati, the SP MLA from Amethi, who is said to be close to SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, will contest the polls.
Why the parties reached a deadlock
As Catch reported earlier, there are two reasons why Akhilesh is unwilling to cede this constituency to the Congress.
1. He does not want to annoy his father further by denying a ticket to his close aide.
2. The SP's internal calculations show it is on a strong wicket in this region.
The Congress, meanwhile, has been insisting that it be given all 10 seats, since the Lok Sabha constituencies are represented by party president Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and vice-president Rahul Gandhi (Amethi).
It feels that if it cedes too much space to the SP in its pocket boroughs, it could be on a weaker wicket when the Lok Sabha elections roll around in 2019.
How things stand now
While an official announcement has not yet been made, SP sources say the party has told the Congress leadership that it will contest on three seats - Unchahar, Gauriganj and Amethi - while the grand old party can have the other seven seats in the two districts to itself.
Congress insiders, however, claim that they've been able to convince the SP to contest on just two seats.
Akhilesh's earlier announcement of five candidates out of the 10 seats had miffed the Congress leadership so much that coalition talks were on the verge of breaking down. The SP had announced its candidates on the Salon, Unchahar and Sareni seats in Rae Bareli, and the Amethi and Gauriganj seats in Amethi district.
"Our internal polls show that we would lose in Sareni and Harchandpur, two of the seven seats we had won in the last elections," an SP leader told Catch.
He added that Unchahar, which is represented by Manoj Pandey in the Assembly, Amethi and Gauriganj may be non-negotiable.
Another insider, who is closely involved with the SP campaign strategy, claims that according to the internal feedback that the party has been getting through various means, the Congress only has an edge in the Rae Bareli Sadar constituency. Its prospects in the other nine constituencies are bleak.
Akhilesh has hinted that seat sharing in the two districts will be done keeping in mind that the BJP or the BSP do not have an easy run.
With Samajwadi strategists claiming that the BJP is rapidly gaining ground, the party may not give in to the Congress's demand for more seats.
The Amita Singh factor
Prajapati has been constantly attacked by rival parties, including the BJP, on allegations of corruption. But there is another roadblock there for the alliance in Amita Singh, the spouse of Congress leader Sanjay Singh, who is keen to contest from the constituency.
Sources say Amita may contest as an independent candidate if the SP finally decides to retain Prajapati as the alliance's candidate.
Sanjay Singh has been giving statements that Congress will contest on all 10 seats in the district, perhaps as a pressure tactic.
The BJP has fielded Sanjay's estranged wife Garima Singh as its candidate from the constituency.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma