Congress moves closer to SP, while distancing from BSP

March 30th, 2008 - 8:24 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

Kanpur, March 30 (IANS) The Congress party moved a step closer to the Samajwadi Party (SP) Sunday by indicating at its state party convention that they could become allies and branding the state’s ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as casteist and corrupt. “I know that SP has worked with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the past and their leader Mulayam Singh Yadav even met L.K. Advani to prevent Sonia Gandhi from becoming prime minister. But we must give credit to the SP for containing BJP in the state (Uttar Pradesh),” Congress general secretary in-charge of UPDigvijay Singh told reporters here.

“We are open to an alliance with all those parties who are against communal forces,” Singh said.

Even before Sunday’s developments, there were indications that the Congress and the SP had buried the hatchet when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi met SP general secretary Amar Singh recently to offer his condolences at the demise of Singh’s father Feb 18.

Sunday’s state Congress convention left little doubt about the Congress and the SP working on an alliance. All Congress leaders, including union Minister of State for Home Sri Prakash Jaiswal, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee President Rita Bahuguna Joshi, senior leader Salman Khurshid and others, at the meting spoke on these lines.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul will Monday address the two-day convention, being held after a gap of 26 years. The party is using the convention to prepare for the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for May 2009. Party sources said leaders were studying the constituencies where the party needs to strengthen itself before polls.

While moving closer to the SP, Congress leaders also voiced their displeasure against the BSP by blasting the Mayawati government in the state. The Congress leaders alleged that BSP was indulging in corruption and casteist politics.

However, relations between the Congress and BSP were cosy till just a few months ago when Mayawati came to power in May 2007. After the state assembly elections, the BSP supported Congress presidential candidate Pratibha Patil.

The Congress reciprocated this gesture by allegedly soft-pedalling the corruption cases against Mayawati in the Taj Corridor land appropriation scandal being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

However, relations soured between the two parties when the BSP started eating into the vote-share of the Congress. This became evident in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections held in December 2007. While the BSP failed to win any seats in Gujarat and got only one in Himachal, it was clear that the Congress candidates had lost in many constituencies as the BSP took away its Dalit votes.

The battle lines have been drawn between the two parties since. Both the parties have held rallies in Delhi this year where they tried to outdo each other in wooing the Dalit vote-bank.

“Now it remains to be seen whether the SP will go with Congress or continue with its plans for a Third Front,” said a Congress leader who did not want to be named.

Third Front leaders like Chandrababu Naidu had declared SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav as its prime ministerial candidate.

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