Congress under pressure from Samajwadi Party, NCP on seat-sharing (Roundup)

January 12th, 2009 - 10:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 12 (IANS) The Congress has come under pressure from its allies as the Samajwadi Party Monday named more Lok Sabha election candidates from Uttar Pradesh and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) demanded more seats from select states. Though its pre-poll alliance negotiations with the Congress are still on, Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh went ahead and announced five more names, taking the number of candidates the party has decided to field to 51 out of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 seats.

Singh told reporters here that he had not announced any names for a seat for which discussions were on with the Congress, though sources in the latter in Uttar Pradesh disputed the claim.

“Now only those seats remain where we are working on a poll alliance with the Congress,” Singh said.

Meanwhile, the NCP demanded 26 seats out of total 48 in Maharashtra and several other states, including Gujarat, Goa, Kerala, Meghalaya, and the union territory of Lakshadweep.

NCP general secretary D.P. Tripathi said: “The party has established its strong presence in states like Meghalaya, Goa, Kerala and Gujarat and Lakshadweep.”

“The party needs proportionate representation in the Lok Sabha elections,” he told reporters.

During the 2004 elections, NCP contested 22 seats in its stronghold Maharashtra, while the alliance partner Congress fought on 26. The NCP then did not have any alliance with the Congress in Kerala, Gujarat, Meghalaya and Lakshwadeep.

The Congress said it would firm up its own strategy and not give in to pressures from the allies.

Asked about the pressure from two parties, Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said: “When the elections approach, such demands come up and things happen. The Congress will not bow down to any arm-twisting tactics.”

On the Samajwadi Party, she only said “talks are on and we hope for a positive outcome.”

Differences between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party emerged after the former sought at least 35 to 38 seats. Finally, it scaled down its demand to 20-25 seats.

The bone of contention between them are also seven to eight seats, where the Congress wanted “friendly fights” but the Samajwadi Party’s lists included strong contenders from five of these seats.

Digvijay Singh, Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh affairs, told reporters Monday evening that “no alliance with the Samajwadi Party is possible without friendly fights. There are seven to eight contentious seats.”

By friendly fights the party means one side fielding a weak candidates to let the other win.

But Amar Singh said Sunday: “There is nothing like a friendly fight. A fight is a fight.”

Asked about the Samajwadi Party’s latest list, Digvijay Singh said: “All options are open till the filing of nominations (for the elections). Names change, withdrawals happen.”

Amar Singh also softened stance and said he had full faith in the Congress. “I was earlier in the Congress and will always support them,” he said.

The five constituencies where the SP named candidates are Pilibhit, Meerut, Gonda, Chandauli and Basti. Prominent among the five names announced Monday is Kirti Vardhan Singh, a sitting MP from Gonda constituency.

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