Congress is in dominant position in the three election bound states of the Hindi belt – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Hence, the party may decide not to initiate seat sharing talks with Samajwadi Party (SP), which has only marginal presence in Madhya Pradesh, while very little presence in Rajasthan, and insignificant presence in Chhattisgarh. However, it would be a grave political mistake impacting political prospect of the Congress in the long run, especially during Lok Sabha election 2024 in Uttar Pradesh, where SP has dominant position.
What the Congress and SP need at present is sending a clear message to the anti-BJP electorate that they are united, which ultimately would boost the morale of rank and file of both the parties along with the entire INDIA alliance partners and the secular electorate across the country who are aiming at defeating PM Modi and BJP in 2024. Any message of disunity may make the secular voters dishearten and hopeless on the one hand, and boost the morale of PM Narendra Modi and RSS-BJP clan on the other.
The reports presently emanating from Uttar Pradesh suggest that both the Pradesh Congress and SP leaders are engaged in flexing their muscles on how many seats they should contest in the Lok Sabha election. Given this backdrop, immediate initiation of talks may halt the war-of-words between the leaders from both sides, which may help the both the parties to ease roadblock in seat sharing talks in Uttar Pradesh.
It is worth mentioning here that both the Congress and SP leaderships seem to have harden their stance on seat sharing in Uttar Pradesh. Even SP president Akhilesh Yadav has given enough hints of hard bargaining by saying “SP is not demanding seats but giving them (Congress).”
SP is presently adamant on contesting maximum number of seats among 80 Lok Sabha seats while conceding to give only a few seats to Congress. Sources said that SP is not ready to give more than 5-6 seats to Congress, since it has to also accommodate Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Bhim Army, and Apna Dal (K).
Congress wants to contest on about two dozen seats, which the SP is not willing to concede. SP wants to give Congress as per its performance in 2019 Lok Sabha elections , when it won only one seat, while Congress wants seat sharing on the basis of 2009 election results when it won 21 seats.
Given such a roadblock in Uttar Pradesh, the initiation of seat sharing talks with SP for the three poll bound states will be important, where SP would not be much demanding.
SP has marginal presence in only Madhya Pradesh, where the party had won 1 seat in the Vidhan Sabha election 2018, while the Congress had won 114 seats out of total 230. BJP could win only 109 seats. Congress vote share was 40.89 per cent as against 41.02 per cent of the BJP. SP’s vote share was 1.3 per cent. For Congress it would be better to improve its vote share in the state given the latest moves of the BJP which has fielded several party stalwarts to retain its power in the state. Other state parties with presence in Madhya Pradesh include AAP. It is therefore important for the Congress to initiate seat sharing talks with both, to benefit from the alliance in other states.
In Rajasthan also Congress is in dominant position. Out of 200 seats it had won 100 seats in 2018, and the 6 of BSP MLAs have merged with it later. SP has no seat in the state, but RLD has 1 seat. CPI(M) has also 2 seats. SP has little support base and in 2018 its vote share was 0.18 per cent. RLD’s vote share was 0.33 per cent and AAP’s 0.38 per cent. The Congress will be benefitted by having understanding with the CPI(M) in Rajasthan where the CPI(M) has pockets of influence in t least six seats part from its two assembly seats.
In Chhattisgarh, Congress is in a dominant position, that had won 60 seats in 2018 out of 90 in Vidhan Sabha. SP and AAP did not win any seat in the state but had gained 0.15 per cent and 0.87 per cent of votes respectively. Obviously, both SP and AAP will not be demanding, but will be happy if Congress initiates seat sharing talks with them keeping in mind that improving relationship is more important at this time which may pave the way for more amicable solutions to the seat sharing problems or even roadblocks in other states.. The CPI has pockets of influence in Bastar district. The Congress can get benefits from CPI’s support in some tribal bases.
Narrow and short-term political approach may hurt the Congress more than the SP, AAP, or RLD, since the Congress is the chief contestant against PM Modi and RSS-BJP across the country. Every political party in INDIA alliance would like to expand their support base, but then pragmatics behind seat sharing must prevail rather than whims and caprices of the political leaders, if they want to be realised their collective dream and the dream of the secular forces and minds in the country to “Oust Modi, Oust BJP”. (IPA Service)