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Alliance talks between SP and Cong stall over seat sharing ahead of UP polls

Talks between the Congress and the ruling Samajwadi Party for an alliance in Uttar Pradesh hit a rough patch on Friday after the two sides failed to agree on the share of seats for the assembly election, which opens February 11.

The deadlock was evident when the SP released a list of candidates for 208 seats, which included nine held by the Congress and those falling in Rae Bareli and Amethi Lok Sabha segments represented by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress was eyeing at least 120 seats but the SP was willing to concede only 80, sources said. The Uttar Pradesh assembly has a strength of 403.

An angry Congress termed the move “unfortunate” and called an emergency meeting of senior leaders in Delhi. It also summoned party’s UP chief Raj Babbar back from Lucknow where he had gone to announce the tie-up. However, Babbar was later asked to stay on.

Read | UP election: Samajwadi Party-Congress talks fail, Akhilesh meets Raj Babbar

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The Congress also called a meeting of its screening committee to shortlist names for the first two phases of elections. While 73 seats will be voted for in the first phase on February 11, the second phase will see 67 constituencies vote on February 15.

Polling will be held in seven phases and the result declared on March 11.

Congress general secretary in-charge of UP Ghulam Nabi Azad, who on January 17 had announced the alliance, briefed party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

The list of SP’s 208 candidates includes SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother Shivpal, who was locked in a bitter power struggle with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Read | UP election: Shivpal Yadav in Akhilesh’s list, but SP alliance with Cong hits roadblock

Earlier in the day, SP vice-president Kironmoy Nanda said negotiations with the Congress had “failed”.

“We offered them 54 (seats) and were willing to concede 25 more but have not got any response from the Congress. The Congress is not coming to the negotiating table now,” he said.

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The SP was not willing to give Amethi or Lucknow Cantonment to the Congress.

“But at the same time, the doors were still open for negotiations…the party will withdraw its candidates on seats where Congress has sitting MLAs,” Nanda said.

Mulayam’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav is the Lucknow Cantonment candidate.

However, SP leader and Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agarwal said Nanda’s comments were “his personal opinion” and Akhilesh would have the final word on the alliance.

In the evening, the Congress softened its stand, putting the onus of reviving the alliance talks on Akhilesh.

“Alliance with SP was concluded in talks with Akhilesh Yadav. We will wait for further talks on the issue between Azad and Akhilesh,” party’s senior spokesperson Ajay Maken said.

Azad is expected to meet Akhilesh on Saturday to iron out the differences, sources said.

The SP also named minister Azam Khan’s son Abdullah from Swar. Naresh Agarwal’s son Nitin will contest from Hardoi. Other loyalists of Mulayam and Shivpal also figure in the list, which has 57 Muslim candidates.

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The Congress-held seats for which the SP has named candidates, include Shamli, Mathura, Deoband and Bulandshahr. Congress’ Pradeep Mathur said he would seek re-election from Mathura.

Deoband MLA Mawiya Ali, who quit the Congress recently, is the SP candidate from the constituency.

After it was spurned by the SP, the Rashtriya Lok Dal is planning to lead a group of 15 smaller parties in the state.

Also read | Uttar Pradesh elections: Congress, Samajwadi Party in a tug of war over seat sharing

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Alliance talks between SP and Cong stall over seat sharing ahead of UP polls