NEW DELHI -- Putting an end to weeks of conjecturing and guesswork, senior Congress Party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad announced today that his party would fight the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election alongside the Samajwadi Party.
Azad announced the Congress-SP alliance one day after the Election Commission decided to give the "cycle" symbol to the Akhilesh Yadav-led faction of the Samajwadi Party (SP), handing a huge blow to Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Tying up with the SP is a shrewd move by the Congress Party, which has been out of power in U.P. for nearly three decades and remains on the fringes despite its best efforts over the past few months. Piggy backing on the popularity which Akhilesh Yadav is enjoying at the moment considerably brightens the electoral prospects of the Grand Old Party.
The Congress Party and the SP will face off against the Bharatiya Janata Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party in a seven-phase election in India's most populous and politically significant state.
The seat sharing formula between Congress and SP is yet to be announced. Congress Party sources told HuffPost India that wrangling over seat sharing has come down to a few seats, with the Grand Old Party pushing to get more than the 90-100 seats which Akhilesh has put on the table. But these differences are likely to be ironed out over the next couple of days, party sources said.
Meanwhile, Delhi's former chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, who was projected as Congress Party's chief ministerial candidate for the U.P. polls, has expressed her willingness to step aside.
Akhilesh is trying to forge a Grand Alliance of the kind that led to Bharatiya Janata Party's defeat in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls. It is possible that Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) also joins the SP-Congress alliance as a junior partner. "As of now it is an alliance of Congress and SP, will think about 'maha-gathbandhan' in the coming days," Azad said on Tuesday, while underlining that the alliance would be "under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav."
The 43-year-old chief minister has for weeks now been embroiled in a high-voltage family feud, which eventually saw him emerge as president of the party founded by his father. Mulayam was against an alliance with the Congress Party, preferring to fight the Assembly election solely under the SP banner.
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