CONFUSION IN OPPOSITION OVER SEAT SHARING – India TV


India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma

The opposition parties seem to be in a state of confusion over seat sharing and fielding of candidates in key states like UP, Maharashtra and Bihar. On the last day of filing of nominations for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, there was confusion in two key constituencies of Uttar Pradesh – Rampur and Moradabad, with rumblings in Samajwadi Party coming to the fore. Party chief Akhilesh Yadav changed the candidates in both constituencies at the last minute, replacing sitting MP S. T. Hasan with Ruchi Vira in Moradabad and fielding Maulana Mohibullah Nadvi in place of Asim Raza.  There are now two candidates each from Samajwadi Party in both constituencies, and voting will take place on April 19. The rank and file of the Samajwadi Party is confused. 

Senior party leader Azam Khan is presently in Sitapur jail. At least two candidates will have to withdraw their nominations by March 30 to allow the official SP candidate to contest on party symbol. Nadvi is the Imam of Delhi’s Parliament Street Jama Masjid. Though he hails from Rampur, he has been based in Delhi for the last 15 years. Ruchi Vira has already submitted the party’s symbol authorisation to the returning officer.  S T Hasan was probably replaced at the instance of Azam Khan.  Akhilesh Yadav had recently met Azam Khan in jail, and the latter had opposed Hasan’s candidature. Akhilesh feels that Azam Khan, despite remaining in jail, can change the voting equations in both these constituencies. Rampur is Azam Khan’s home constituency. Azam Khan had suggested that Akhilesh should either contest himself from Rampur or field anybody from the Yadav community. Instead, Akhilesh fielded Maulana Nadvi. On Wednesday, soon after the Maulana filed his nomination, Asim Raza too filed his papers. Asim Raza is Azam Khan’s confidante.  When Azam Khan vacated his Rampur seat in 2022, Asim Raza contested the byelection, but he lost to BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi by 42,000 votes.  This time BJP has again fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, while BSP has fielded Zeeshan Khan. On March 30, the last date for withdrawal of nominations, the official SP candidate will be known. Rampur has been Azam Khan’s stronghold since 2002. He knows each locality like the back of his hand, but presently he is in jail, serving a two-year imprisonment. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath cut him to size in the Rampur assembly and LS byelection, and for the first time, in 2022, Azam Khan’s candidates lost. 

Azam Khan is a born fighter. He has several hundred cases against him and he is not going to admit defeat easily. He can still influence politics in Rampur and Moradabad despite staying behind bars. His advice to Akhilesh to contest from Rampur was a good one, but the Samajwadi Party supremo is careful this time. The Lok Sabha general elections will be a testing time for Akhilesh and the existence of his party. Akhilesh does listen to Azam Khan’s advice, but confusion is created when he does not accept his advice to contest from Rampur.  Already, Yogi Adityanath has started campaigning in western UP. He will be visiting 15 districts to meet party workers and social influencers. In Meerut, he welcomed Ramayana serial actor Arun Govil, who is contesting on BJP ticket. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the Lok Sabha poll campaign from Meerut on March 30.

MAHARASHTRA

There was anger and consternation in the Congress camp in Maharashtra on Wednesday when Shiv Sena (UBT) declared its list of 17 candidates even before the seat-sharing formula among Maha Vikas Aghadi allies was finalized. The anti-Modi alliance in Maharashtra has thus split wide open, with Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and Raju Shetty’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana deciding to contest elections separately. The 17 seats included Sangli, from where Congress wanted to field Late Vasantdada Patil’s grandson Vishal Patil, Mumbai South Central, where Congress wanted to field Varsha Gaekwad, but Shiv Sena (UBT) announced Anil Desai’s name, and Mumbai North West coveted by Sanjay Nirupam of Congress, but Uddhav decided to field Amol Kirtikar. 

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, that since Congress has already announced the names of 10 candidates, there was nothing wrong with Shiv Sena doing the same thing. He said, Uddhav Thackeray has left Ramtek and Kolhapur seats for Congress, and the formula is now final. Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said this was against “coalition dharma” since no formula has been agreed upon and Uddhav should reconsider his decision. Sanjay Nirupam alleged that Uddhav Thackeray is trying to “finish off” the Congress and the voters of Mumbai “ will teach Uddhav a lesson this time”. NCP chief Sharad Pawar is unhappy with Uddhav announcing the names of his candidates. NCP workers shouted slogans on Wednesday even as Pawar was busy in a meeting with party leaders for poll preparations. One is amused to hear the Maha Vikas Aghadi leaders speaking in different voices. Uddhav Thackeray announced his candidates, and his allies are stunned, but Sanjay Raut claims this was done with the approval of all. Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam expressed annoyance, but Shiv Sena leaders questioned, who is Sanjay Nirupam? While Congress described Uddhav’s announcement as a step taken in a hurry, Sanjay Raut said, his party was going to announce its candidate’s name for Mumbai North too. Sharad Pawar is worried because Uddhav’s party is not following ‘coalition dharma’, but Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai claims, the alliance parties respect each other’s views. The conclusion is crystal clear: leaders of the opposition alliance say one thing in public, and do something else privately.

BIHAR

The same is the situation with the anti-Modi alliance in Bihar over seat-sharing. RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav has already started distributing tickets to his party candidates. RJD ‘s Bima Bharti said, Lalu Yadav has given her the party symbol to contest from Purnea, but Pappu Yadav, who recently joined Congress, said, he would rather commit suicide rather than contest from any seat other than Purnea. Pappu Yadav has now left the ball in the court of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. Purnea will go to the polls on April 25. Bima Bharti was an MLA in JD(U) and she joined RJD five days ago.

Pappu Yadav has made the Purnea nomination a prestige issue, but RJD and Congress are also locked in conflict over some other seats. Earlier, RJD wanted to leave six seats for Congress in Bihar, though the latter had demanded 15 seats, and later scaled down its demand to nine. On Tuesday, Tejashwi Yadav met Congress leaders and offered eight seats — Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Bettiah, Sasaram, Kishanganj, Katihar, Patna Sahib and Samastipur – to Congress, but the latter is also demanding Purnea, Aurangabad and Begusarai seats. The problem is: RJD has already given the Begusarai seat to CPI, but Congress wants to field Kanhaiya Kumar, who lost from Begusarai in the 2019 elections while contesting on CPI ticket. Kanhaiya later joined the Congress. This time, CPI is not ready to leave the Begusarai seat for Kanhaiya Kumar. RJD has already given the party symbol to Abhay Kushwaha for Aurangabad seat, but Congress is unwilling to yield. The conflict between RJD and Congress over seats is going to continue.

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