LUCKNOW: The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has identified 32 seats, mostly in western Uttar Pradesh, to contest on as a partner of the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the assembly elections beginning early next year, its state unit chief said on Sunday.
RLD workers want party chief Jayant Chaudhary to contest the elections, the party's Uttar Pradesh unit chief Masood Ahmad told PTI in an interview, adding that if the kin of farmers who died during the farm laws protest are willing to contest on an RLD ticket, the party will take a decision based on their winnability.
Masood, however, categorically stated that if the SP-led alliance is voted to power in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav will be its chief minister and the RLD a partner in the government.
"As of now, 32 seats of western Uttar Pradesh have been identified from where the RLD will be fighting. These seats are spread across Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Shamli, Bulandshahr, Hathras, Mathura, Agra, Aligarh, Moradabad and Amroha. The total number of seats on which the party will contest in the upcoming assembly elections is likely to go up further," he said.
Asked if Jayant Chaudhary will be deputy chief minister if the SP-led alliance wins, Ahmad said, "I don't know whether Jayant ji will contest or not. Almost three months ago, when I asked him if he would contest the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, he had said no. But in politics, things change fast."
The entire party wants him to contest, and there are many seats Chaudhary can choose from, he said, adding, "I am willing to offer him the Tanda assembly seat (in Ambedkarnagar district)."
The RLD and the SP are yet to announce a seat-sharing arrangement for next year's election to the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly.
The RLD has one MLA in the outgoing assembly Sahendra Singh Ramala from the Chhaprauli assembly constituency in Baghpat.
Attacking at the BJP over its announcement to repeal the new farm laws, Masood said the party had thought that its heels were dug deep and nobody could force it to change its stance.
"They (BJP) had a misconception ('galatfahmi') and false pride ('guroor') about themselves. The party had thought it would crush the farmers' protest, and that the movement would not sustain for long. The farmers, however, were determined," the RLD leader said.
"It was Chaudhary Ajit Singh (former RLD chief) who had extended support to Rakesh Tikait. Without that it would have been difficult for the farmers' protest to last long after the Red Fort violence incident on Republic Day. Ajit Singh had told Rakesh Tikait not to worry," he added.
Thousands of farmers protesting the Centre's new agri laws had clashed with the police during a tractor parade in Delhi on January 26.
Many of the protesters, driving tractors, reached the Red Fort and entered the monument.
Some of them even hoisted religious flags on the domes and a flagstaff at the ramparts, where the national flag is unfurled on Independence Day.
On attacks being made on the SP and its chief Akhilesh Yadav by senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the RLD leader said, "Every attack on Akhilesh (Yadav) is giving us strength. The language being used (by the BJP leaders) is not being liked by the people. In fact, Akhliesh Yadav gives more respect to Adityanath by referring to him as 'Baba'."
Dismissing rumours of the RLD cosying up to the Congress, Ahmad said, "Our alliance with the SP has been going on since 2019. BSP chief Mayawati was also there. She left later. We did not have an alliance with the BSP. Our alliance was with the SP, is with the SP and will remain with the SP. The BJP has already accepted defeat."
On any remote possibility of aligning with the BJP (as reported in social media), he said, "If there is any leader who can eloquently speak against the BJP, it is Jayant Chaudhary. And since the very beginning, he has been fighting the party."
Ahmad also took a dig at Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya for having said that RLD meant 'Roj Ludhaktaa Dal'.
"Today the RLD has become the 'ludhkaane wala dal' (political party which will make others roll). Under the leadership of Jayant Chaudhary, we will make the BJP roll. The RLD stands for 'Ready always to serve Labourer, farmers, Dalits and the poor'. It was Chaudhary Ajit Singh who had stopped the fast-paced chariot of the BJP," he added.