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Will Cong-SP alliance survive the seat-sharing test in UP?

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Lucknow, Feb 11 :Seat-sharing arrangement has been one of the major contentions for the INDIA bloc and with only three months remaining for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the INDIA bloc is yet to come up with a seat-sharing formula between its alliance partners.

In Uttar Pradesh, the INDIA bloc partners — Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) — have been on loggerheads over the seat-sharing arrangements as both the parties have now started to short-list their own candidates on various seats while the alliance partners are in agreement only on few seats across the UP.

Sources said that former MP Begum Noor Bano is likely to be the Congress candidate from Rampur. Despite the legendary hostility between the Begum’s family and SP leader Mohd Azam Khan, the seat has been given to the Congress.

They said that Azam Khan is prepared to support Begum Noor Bano as his family remains in jail, Khan has no other option.

UP Congress Chief Ajay Rai is likely to contest from Ballia.

Rai — who contested Lok Sabha elections against Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Varanasi in 2014 and 2019 — is known for his assertive leadership and strong connection with party cadres.

Sources said that SP has offered Ballia, Fatehpur Sikri, Rampur, Maharajganj, Barabanki, Sultanpur, Kanpur, Saharanpur, Bhadohi and Bahraich seats to Congress.

Despite there being no alliance between the two parties on Rae Bareli and Amethi seats, SP has not fielded any candidates as of now. Before giving seats to Congress, SP had also asked who the candidates are for Congress to contest on the seats it is demanding. On this basis, Congress has shared the names of some seat-wise candidates with the INDIA bloc.

Sources said that Congress was keen to field Raj Babbar from Fatehpur Sikri but the actor-turned -politician is not keen to contest from Fatehpur Sikri seat.

They said that the second choice for Fatehpur Sikri seat can likely be Ramnath Sikarwar.

Congress Spokesperson Supriya Shrinetra is said to be a candidate from the Maharajganj seat. In the last election, Congress had given a ticket to Supriya, but she lost.

Tanuj Punia, son of former Congress Rajya Sabha MP PL Punia, has been shortlisted from Barabanki, while former MLC Deepak Singh can be the candidate from Sultanpur.

Former MP Imran Masood is likely to contest from Saharanpur while the former MP Rajesh Mishra is likely to contest from Bhadohi.

Sources also said that Congress is asking the Bansgaon seat for Kamal Kishore Commando however the SP has not committed anything to the grand-old party as of now for Bansgaon seat.

There was also a tussle between the alliance partners over Farrukhabad Lok Sabha seat. Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid used to contest from Farrukhabad, which has been his ancestral seat.

However, in the last two Lok Sabha elections, Khurshid could not even save his deposit in Farrukhabad. The SP now has given ticket to cancer surgeon Naval Kishore Shakya from Farrukhabad.

Samajwadi Party has also upset the Congress apple cart in Lakhimpur Kheri where it has declared Utkarsh Verma as its candidate.

The Congress was all set to announce the name of Purvi Verma from this constituency. Purvi, along with her father Ravi Verma, had joined Congress in November 2023. Ravi Verma is a former SP leader.

“SP is giving us those Lok Sabha seats which we did not even ask for. SP declared candidates on those Lok Sabha seats on which Congress was preparing to contest without informing its alliance partner,” a senior Congress leader said.

Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav had said that his party has kept 11 seats for the Congress but later SP announced its candidates for 16 Lok Sabha seats while the Congress leaders believe that SP’s announcement regarding Lok Sabha seats was one-sided.

Given the tensions between the Congress and SP over seat-sharing arrangement, it remains to be seen whether the alliance — in the biggest state of the country, seats wise(IANS) — will survive the test or go their own separate ways in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

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