LUCKNOW: The UP elections may be a year away, but big players in the state are warming up already. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is in talks with Rashtriya Lok Dal boss Ajit Singh for a rare pre-election alliance in the state, days after PM Narendra Modi picked Saharanpur to kick off the BJP-led government’s second year anniversary celebrations.

Saharanpur is a stronghold of Ajit Singh. Before his foray into western UP, the PM had touched the eastern outpost of the state in Ballia, launching programmes for BPL families.
While the shape of the SP-RLD alliance is still fuzzy, it is believed that SP will withdraw a candidate for Rajya Sabha to accommodate Ajit. Meanwhile, his son Jayant Chaudhary, who could get to the Vidhan Parishad as part of the bargain, reportedly met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, which would be entirely in keeping with Ajit’s robust reputation to keep lines with all parties open and dump and pick allies at will. Just before his talks with SP, he was chatting up BJP and before that, the JD(U).

The RLD was part of Mulayam’s previous government between 2004 and 2007 but the two parties have never had a pre-poll tie-up. Political analysts said wary of BJP’s bid to polarise voters in west UP, Mulayam may have decided to take Ajit on board to strengthen his position in the region. The spokesman of both sides described the political development as “courtesy call” while an RLD official said that the party had explained his viewpoint to SP and the latter has to take a final call.

Congress pointsperson in UP Prashant Kishore, is believed to have brainstormed with partymen about ways to revive the Congress, including projecting Priyanka Vadra as the chief ministerial candidate in a desperate measure to prevent the party’s further marginalisation. Mayawati, who looked down and out after the 2014 polls, has crawled back into the game, re-establishing her alliance with Brahmins and trying to recreate the rainbow coalition that had pitchforked her to office in 2007.

On the birth anniversary of farmer leader Chaudhary Charan Singh, the SP is also angling to appropriate his legacy by forcing the merger of the late Jat chief’s son Ajit Singh’s party into SP. Sources said the SP wants a merger of RLD, but Ajit has proposed an “outside arrangement”. The latest development has reportedly evoked a mixed reaction from the SP’s first family. According to sources, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav are not in favour of any pact with Ajit Singh. On the other hand, Mulayam and Shivpal are in favour of this tie.
Ram Gopal not only stayed away from the SP-RLD talks, he also reportedly expressed his opinion that by having an alliance with the RLD, which is struggling for survival after being annihilated in 2014 parliament elections, SP would lose its leadership, ministers, MLAs and grassroots workers in more than 80 constituencies of western UP.

“In the last decade or more, SP has consolidated in western UP and has highest number of MLAs from this region compared to the past,” one of his close aides explained.

Another challenge SP faces is that it will have to withdraw one of its seven Rajya Sabha candidates in order to make place for Ajit Singh. The party has already effected one change by replacing a committed member Arvind Singh with a powerful builder and businessman Surendra Nagar. Secondly, party leadership will face stiff resistance from the rank and file and grass-rootss workers as for years they had been opposing Ajit Singh and challenging him and his party in the elections.

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