With the family feud in Samajwadi Party worsening, Congress on Wednesday appeared ambivalent on the issue of a possible alliance with the party for upcoming Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.
Congress' chief ministerial candidate Sheila Dikshit took a favourable tone towards the Akhilesh Yadav camp of the warring Samajwadi Party with rumours doing the rounds that the parties may go for a post-poll alliance if Mulayam and Akhilesh fail to reach truce.
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Dikshit even suggested that she is ready to step down as the chief ministerial candidate, in case a possibility of such an alliance emerge. She has reportedly said that Akhilesh is a much "better chief ministerial candidate than her", therefore she would be "happy to step aside" to make way for him, according to NDTV.
Dikshit's praise for her 30-year junior comes at a time when Akhilesh is standing on shaky grounds in his own party and may even lose the 'cycle' election symbol, which his father also stakes claim at. Her words may come as a soothing balm for the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
According to India Today, Dikshit also expressed hope that not only Samajwadi Party but other like-minded players could also come together to form a "secular exercise."
The 78-year-old veteran leader was deemed 'tired' if not 'retired' after Congress lost Delhi to a nascent Aam Aadmi Party despite her 15-year-long uninterrupted rule. She was dropped off from the run-up to Delhi in 2015, after she was linked to the water tanker scam. She was later made the Kerala governor, which was taken as a sign that the seasoned politician's days in active politics might as well be over.
However, just when people were speculating that her career may have come to an end, she was pulled back into action by the Congress leadership, this time as the party's chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh, a state where she was married, but which can hardly be called her home turf.
It can be argued that Congress apparently chose Dikshit, a Brahmin, as its face for the polls considering "her strong credentials as chief minister of Delhi for three consecutive terms", to enable the party regain the support of the electorally-sizable community.
However, the Congress' unlikely choice of a candidate, was seen as acceptance of defeat by its opponents in the state, while many political analysts saw it as a move to use Dikshit as a scapegoat to save Rahul Gandhi the embarrassment of yet another electoral defeat.
Another way of looking at it could be that it was a part of the larger strategy of the Congress party.
It is not hard to pre-empt that the grand old party was not going to stake a claim on the throne of UP single-handedly, but an alliance of like-minded parties was its best bet. It would have been a greater embarrassment to ask a local leader with roots in the electorate to step down as the chief ministerial candidate had a pact with SP or BSP worked out, both of which have strong leaders heading it with chief ministerial ambitions. However, Dikshit, the UP ki bahu, who was imported from the Lutyens' zone in a largely rural state as party's saving grace could have easily been excused.
Meanwhile, even as Dikshit openly courted the Akhilesh Yadav camp, other Congress leaders appeared wary of going all out.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad remarked that the Samajwai Party is too occupied in resolving its internal strife to consider an alliance.
Right now SP is resolving it's own internal issues, with time we will see what is to be done: GN Azad, Cong on alliance with SP in UP pic.twitter.com/DIKv3aJwIs
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Earlier, Congress leader Manish Tewari also appeared to be doing a balancing act when on he one hand he replied with a quip when asked about the Samajwadi Party rift but also refrained from ruling out the talk of an alliance.
"What are being witnessed are various episodes of a long running serial. We need to see a quietus...a certain amount of stability and equilibrium in the political situation, then only such issues could be decided," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Replying to questions, he recalled that since the SP came to power in Uttar Pradesh, it was commonly said there were five chief ministers. He dismissed a suggestion that Congress could witness a situation similar to Samajwadi Party, with Rahul Gandhi acting against Sonia Gandhi like Akhilesh has done with his father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav.
"It is like comparing apples with pears," he had said.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jan 04, 2017 21:07 PM