Lucknow: A day after holding marathon talks with Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor on Monday held closed-door meeting with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav fuelling speculation that a grand alliance could be on the anvil for the 2017 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Monday's meeting assumes significance as the 43-year-old chief minister is expected to have a major say in ticket distribution and choice of seats to be contested by his party in case an alliance is cobbled together.
There has been speculation of a "maha-gathbandhan" among erstwhile Janata Parivar parties and Congress to check BJP in its tracks Kishor met Akhilesh and was with him for nearly three hours during which they are understood to have discussed threadbare the state's political scenario ahead of the upcoming elections.
However, Akhilesh sounded cautious and not in a hurry when he said factors like who will benefit and who will lose in case of an alliance have to be considered. "Elections are near, who will be benefited, who will lose (in alliance) is to be taken note of. The decision is to be taken by party's national president," Akhilesh told reporters while refusing to publicly state his stand on the issue.
"I will give my suggestions only at party platform," he said. When asked specifically about the possibility of SP joining the hands with Congress, Akhilesh parried a direct reply, saying "If SP and Congress want alliance, will you (media) stop it?"
He did not elaborate on the query made against the backdrop of Kishor's two rounds of meeting with Mulayam in Lucknow on Sunday, triggering speculation of a 'maha-gathbandhan' (grand alliance) similar to the one in Bihar.
Kishor's back-to-back talks with Mulayam and Akhilesh come close on the heels of top leaders of socialist-leaning parties attending SP's silver jubilee meet — a move seen as an attempt by Mulayam to forge an alliance for the crucial polls hardly a few months away.
This was for the second time in six days that Kishor met Mulayam, who is trying to cobble together an alliance of like-minded parties. The first meeting had taken place at Mulayam's Delhi residence on 1 November.
Congress, on its part, has not closed its doors for any possible grand alliance for the 2017 Assembly polls. Earlier, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar had said that no initiative had been taken for an alliance either by his party or by any other political parties in the state.
"No initiative for an alliance, either by us or by any other party in the coming polls has been taken, but Congress has not closed its doors for any such possibility which could benefit people of the state," he said last week.
The UPCC chief, however, stressed his party "will not enter into an alliance or grand alliance only for numbers, as it were not important in UP polls."
On the possibility of a grand alliance in UP, state SP President Shivpal Yadav said, "When it materialises, I will tell you." Samajwadi Party, which was initially part of Bihar's grand alliance, had walked out of it after it was offered only a handful of seats to contest the assembly elections there.
The grand alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress had, however, scripted a major electoral victory, defeating the BJP-led NDA.