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As ‘UP ke ladke’ Rahul and Akhilesh reunite, a look back at their 2017 partnership that failed | Political Pulse News


Seven years after they joined forces, “UP ke ladke (boys of UP)” Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi reunited again in Agra on Sunday during the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. Flanked by Rahul and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the presence of Samajwadi Party (SP) president at the event brought back memories of 2017 when they campaigned from an improvised vehicle, the Uttar Pradesh Vijay Rath, for the Assembly polls.

While both leaders and their parties will be hoping that a repeat of 2017 is not on the cards — the drubbing the alliance received marked the beginning of the rule of the Yogi Adityanath government — the sequence of events leading up to the announcement of the alliance on Friday has been quite similar. In the 2017 Assembly polls, the SP won only 47 seats, a drastic fall from the 224 it won when it stormed to power in 2012, while the Congress’s tally dropped from 28 in 2012 to seven. Despite being in an alliance, both parties fielded candidates against each other in 22 seats.

The ups and downs

In both instances, alliance talks were initiated barely months before the elections and were on the verge of collapse before senior leaders of both parties intervened and salvaged them.

In 2017, uneasiness prevailed between the SP and the Congress as the latter demanded 110 seats while Akhilesh’s party offered 100. The alliance finally took shape only after senior Congress leaders such as Sonia Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad (he was then in the party), and Priyanka met Akhilesh and senior SP leader Azam Khan. Following the meeting, it was announced that the SP would contest 298 seats while the Congress fielded candidates in 105 constituencies. Days after the announcement, the SP released a list of 208 candidates while fielding nominees in 10 seats that were promised to the Congress. The grand old party termed the move “unfortunate” and asked the SP to “honour the agreement”.

This time, negotiations began in January between the Congress’s national alliance committee and the SP’s coordination committee. The Congress initially demanded 28 Lok Sabha seats, including Rampur and Moradabad that the SP won in the 2019 polls. The SP, which initially agreed to part with 11 seats, later revised its offer to 17.

Festive offer

In what seemed like a repeat of 2017, the SP announced its candidate in Varanasi and in-charge in Amroha, both of which were promised to the Congress. The talks gained momentum only when Akhilesh, who had already announced candidates for 31 seats, refused to join the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Raebareli as seat-sharing had not been finalised. Like in 2017, Priyanka intervened and spoke to Akhilesh over the phone last Wednesday to break the deadlock. The SP agreed to leave 17 seats, including Amroha and Varanasi, for the Congress and said it would accommodate its candidates and allies in the remaining 63 Lok Sabha seats.

The campaigns too have similarities. While in 2017 local Congress leaders skipped the start of Akhilesh’s campaign in Sultanpur citing lack of an official invitation and clarity on seat-sharing, the SP chief gave the Congress yatra a miss this time at the beginning and SP workers were nowhere to be seen during the first leg of the yatra.

‘Complete understanding this time’

Leaders of both parties also said there was a major difference between 2017 and 2024. “We formed the alliance this time while taking lessons from the past. This alliance has the people as the leadership, which will ensure its victory,” said Congress spokesperson Surendra Rajpoot. His SP counterpart Rajendra Chaudhary said unlike in 2017, this time there was “complete understanding”.

Another Congress leader said muscle flexing between alliance partners was normal. “The anti-incumbency against the SP government, coupled with organisational loopholes of the Congress, damaged the alliance’s prospects in 2017. This time, the situation is in our favour,” said the party functionary

In comparison to 2017, the “UP ke ladke” are no longer “political novices”, according to party insiders. While Akhilesh had helmed his party only for a few months before he went ahead with the tie-up against the wishes of a majority of senior leaders, including his father and SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rahul was then the vice-president of the Congress.

Rahul and Akhilesh’s campaign in 2017 and the “UP ko ye saath pasand hai (UP likes this combination)” slogan aimed to project the two as a young alternative to veteran leaders of the BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). This time, there would be no common slogan, said Congress leaders.





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