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MAHARASHTRA

Samajwadi Party hopes to tie up with Congress-NCP

Tuesday 30 March 2004, by BHATT*Arunkumar

MUMBAI, MARCH 29: The Samajwadi Party, though piqued by the Congress that spurned its efforts for an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, is hopeful of working out a tie-up in Maharashtra, provided the Congress-NCP combine spares three seats to it.

The SP general secretary, Amar Singh, said here today that there was scope for an alliance till March 31 - when the filing of nomination ends in the eastern and northern parts of the State. He said that the SP was flexible and would consider any three seats that it got because it was keen on avoiding division of "secular" votes. He did not name the seats the SP wanted.

The SP leader indicated that left to themselves, the State Congress leaders would tie up with the Congress but they needed the approval of the central leadership which was difficult to get. Mr. Singh, however, did not say how he would manage to tie up with the Congress even if New Delhi approved of it since the SP was a part of the Left Front in Maharashtra, which had declared that it would have no truck with the Congress-NCP combine.

"I used to visit Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders without any invitation. But just when we were saying `Sonia, Sonia’, the Congress leadership was chanting `Maya, Maya’ (the Bahujan Samaj Party leader, Mayawati)," he said. They were after Mayawati in the hope that an alliance with her would "get" them Dalit votes throughout the country, he said. But now the BSP leader had also turned away from the Congress.

The Congress, he said, had been "absolutely unreasonable" to the SP from the beginning. "They have only 14 seats in the U.P. Legislative Assembly and still wanted us to leave them 40 Lok Sabha constituencies, against our offer of 18 seats that included the seats they held, constituencies where they were runners-up in the last poll and four more." But in Bihar, where the Congress has 23 seats in the Assembly, the Congress readily accepted just four seats from Laloo Yadav, he said.

"Besides, senior Congress leader, Arjun Singh, and then the Congress spokesman, Kapil Sibal, snubbed us. Mr. Arjun Singh called the SP parliamentarians "migratory birds" and this time he attended the BSP rally in Lucknow where he declared that the Congress could withdraw its support to the Mulayam Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh.

But all this bitterness has not prevented the SP from waiting for the Congress response now in Maharashtra. Mr. Singh announced the names of 15 candidates and said that four more would be announced soon. The party is not fielding any nominee for North-West Mumbai where actor Sunil Dutt is contesting. Mr. Singh said the SP was not under pressure from Mr. Dutt but he had high regards for him. However, the Maharashtra SP could decide to field a candidate there, he said. Mr. Singh did not fear a division of "secular" votes in Uttar Pradesh. On the contrary, he expected polarisation of such votes in favour of the SP. He hoped to bag 45 seats there.

See online : The Hindu

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