Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have given yet another blow to the hopes of Congress in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Both SP and BSP which are planning to fight the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in a grand coalition have connived to expunge Congress from the grand coalition as it is being called. Congress has not received a straightforward no from SP-BSP but has instead been offered a paltry five seats out of the total 80 in the state. Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have instead chosen to rope in Ajit Singh and his Rashtriya Lok Dal into their coalition. RLD which has a huge influence in the Jat-dominated western parts of UP has been roped in by SP-BSP to increase their chances of winning a few seats. The cold shoulder given to Congress though is surprising considering how SP-BSP at one time had sided with Congress and had even supported the UPA I & II governments from the outside.
The Congress leaders from the state have become upset with the offer posed by SP-BSP coalition, they have maintained that Congress is not willing to enter into an coalition unless at least 15 seats are allotted to them. It is important to know that the BJP along with its allies hold 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The Congress, after the debacle which it was subjected to in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, wants to have a shot at redemption in the state. According to a source who spoke to The Sunday Guardian said, “The seat-sharing, as of now, remains unresolved. We are clear that we would not contest on less than 15 seats, as this would hit the morale of our cadre, who are yet to recover from the Assembly election loss of February-March 2017, when an alliance with the SP led to Congress’ decline in both vote percentage and the number of seats won”. The source however further went on to add that the Congress was willing to accommodate SP and BSP candidates in its cadres prior to the election just as it had done in 2017. In 2017, many SP candidates had indeed fought from the 103 seats allotted to the Congress out of the total 403 assembly seats. They had joined the party just prior to the elections keeping their voter base and supporters intact.
Congress is facing a severe problem in the state of UP and Bihar, the two states together send 120 MPs to the Lok Sabha and Congress ranks fairly low in both the states. The only option remaining for the INC is to enter into a coalition with SP and BSP or at least enter into a tacit agreement with them for the majority of seats in which they are looking forward to field their candidates. It would be magical if Congress can manage a turnaround in the state with not much time left for the Lok Sabha 2019 elections. As it is the party lacks prominent face in the state and now the added disadvantage of fighting alone without the support of SP and BSP might prove to be the final nail in the coffin. The INC will either have to learn to play third fiddle in the state where its political strongholds of Amethi and Raebareli lie or else fight elections alone and risk being subject to an even bigger rout in 2019.