The Congress has firmed up an electoral alliance with the Western Uttar Pradesh-based Rashtriya Lok Dal(RLD) by conceding eight seats to the Ajit Singh-headed party.
What is to be seen, though, is whether the UPA’s last- minute announcement of reservation for the Jats in the government sector will deliver the desired results or will prove a non-starter.
The Congress on Saturday released its 194-member list of candidates, which set to rest the confusion regarding its poll-pact with the RLD as the grand old party did not announce its candidates in the eight seats in Western UP, which included Mathura; Baghpat; Hathras; Amroha; Kairana; Bijnore; Bulandshahr and Fatehpur Sikri.
It also confirmed that all five Union Ministers from the state – Beni Prasad Verma; Salman Khurshid; R P N Singh; Shri Prakash Jaiswal and Pradip Jain Aditya would be fielded again by the party while most of the sitting MPs – barring a few like Jagdambika Pal, who had quit the party, and Sanjay Sinh who chose to go to the Rajya Sabha – had been given renomination.
With Sanjay taking the RS route, the Congress leadership has decided to put up his wife Amita, who is likely to face BJP firebrand Varun Gandhi in Sultanpur. The Congress has also fielded test discard Mohammad Kaif from Phulpur in Allahabad.
Apart from the RLD,the Congress has also forged an alliance with the nascent Mahan Dal and has vacated three seats for it,thereby reversing party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s “ekla chalo” poll policy, which had paid dividends to the party in the 2009 Parliament elections and the party had put on its best show in the last decade by increasing its tally from just nine to 22.
But this time round, the Congress’ public image has been seriously dented. Hence the high command was forced to rely on the RLD and Mahan Dal to achieve its target of securing a face saving score.
The indications are that the Congress will contest in only 67 out of 80 constituencies in the state as the party is unlikely to pose a challenge to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav from Mainpuri and his daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav in Kannauj.
The fallout of the Congress-led UPA Government’s announcement regarding the reservation for Jats, which came barely days ahead of the EC unveiling the poll calendar, would definitely have a bearing on the poll outcome in the Jat pockets.
It remains to be seen as to how the Jats will respond to the Congress’ bait at a time when the communal riots that ravaged parts of Western UP last year had led to communal polarisation, with Muslims and non-Muslims-- mainly the Jats and Gujjars-- ranged against each other.
And two of the BJP MLAs accused of fanning the communal sentiments, which led to the flare-up that claimed over 60 lives, were facilitated by the BJP for their “role” in the riots at a rally addressed by the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi . The BJP is confident that it has weaned away the Jats from the RLD camp and they would vote for the party in the Parliament elections.
In order to bring the Jats back,Ajit is said to have put pressure on the Congress high command to announce reservation for the community so that they can be wooed back to the RLD fold.