Following a spat with the Congress over seat sharing in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, the Samajwadi Party may go solo in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh. Besides the acrimony created by Madhya Pradesh elections, the SP leaders joining the Congress has further vitiated the relations of the two parties.
The Samajwadi Party is particularly stung by its former MP Ravi Verma, along with his daughter, joining the Congress, and has described it as poaching by the grand old party.
On November 6, SP general secretary and three-time MP Ravi Verma joined the Congress with daughter Purvi. A close aide of the late SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, Verma claimed that he found himself unable to work for the party due to an “adverse internal party atmosphere” and alleged that a ‘coterie’ close to Akhilesh was ruining it.
“We are impressed by the leadership and ideology of the Congress. We are thankful to the Samajwadi Party, but we were not feeling comfortable there. We can’t compromise with our principles, which the SP is lacking now,” Ravi Verma had said.
Verma, considered a prominent OBC leader, was elected from Lakhimpur Kheri in the 1998, 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections. He was later elected as a Rajya Sabha member on the Samajwadi Party ticket. Verma’s switch from the SP may be the tip of the iceberg, with the Congress leaders claiming that at least half a dozen senior SP leaders are in touch with them.
“The poaching by the Congress has dealt an irreparable damage to the alliance. Though we were aware that Ravi Verma was in touch with the Congress leadership, we expected the Congress to not do anything that would harm the alliance. Since they are doing that, they will also suffer the repercussions,” a senior SP leader said.
It’s not just about taking in disaffected SP leaders. Many of the Congress’s programmes are also against the SP. The minority cell of the Congress recently launched ‘Congress ki baat, chai ke saath’. In a string of public meetings in minority-dominated areas, party leaders talk about not only the reasons for the decline of the Congress in the state in the past three decades, but also how the SP had failed to develop Muslim leadership in UP.
Following the Muslim outreach programme by the Congress, the SP has decided to hit back. SP sources said that the party would prepare for contesting all 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP. In a recent meeting with state committee office-bearers, Akhilesh asked the leaders to be ready for an eventuality where the SP had to contest polls on its own.
All this puts a big question mark on the INDIA bloc in UP. The continuing friction with the SP has goaded the Congress to look for other parties to ally with in case seat-sharing arrangements with Akhilesh do not work out. The Congress leaders hint that the party has a ‘Plan B’ — a possible alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party and or the Rashtriya Lok Dal.