Congress announces alliance with Samajwadi Party; Akhilesh Yadav to decide in a 'day or two'

NEW DELHI: Efforts to form a "grand secular alliance" in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh went into top gear on Tuesday with the Congress declaring that it has decided to tie up with Samajwadi Party and the shape of the formation would be announced in the next two days.

"I am confident that the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance will form the next government in Uttar Pradesh," AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters confirming the much talked-about the tie-up .

Azad, who is in charge of party affairs in UP, said this was just a beginning of the alliance process and the nitty gritty would be decided in the next one or two days.

He was asked whether it would be a grand secular alliance also comprising Ajit Singh's RLD.

At the AICC briefing later, party coordinator for UP Meem Afzal spoke in similar vein. "Congress will have an alliance with Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. The details of the arrangement will be announced in the next two days," he said.

Congress announcement came close on the heels of reports from Lucknow where SP chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said a decision on tying up with the Congress will be taken in a "day or two".

"Decision on alliance (with Congress) will be taken in a day or two," he said, buoyed by the Election Commission's order recognising him as the president of Samajwadi Party and allowing him to retain the 'bicycle' symbol.

Talks about such an alliance had intensified since last week when Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had significantly remarked at the 'Jan Vedna Sammelan' that the elections in the key state will be an "exciting affair".

The refrain in several opposition parties including the Congress and the SP was that the Narendra Modi-led BJP should be stopped in Uttar Pradesh as the electoral outcome would have a major bearing on the next Lok Sabha polls.

SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav, a close aide of Akhilesh, expressed hope of a grand secular alliance to fight elections in the state.

With the poll process set in motion after the issue of notification on Tuesday, hectic efforts are underway to hammer out such an alliance, with Congress being offered 90 to 100 seats by the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party, which is also trying to rope in Ajit Singh's RLD as a junior partner. Nitish Kumar's JD-U is also said to be a minor partner.

Azad and Ramgopal were said to be resolving some disputes over certain seats.

Meanwhile, former Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit, who has been projected by Congress as the UP CM candidate, said that if the alliance takes place, she would step aside in favour of Akhilesh.

Uttar Pradesh has 403 assembly constituencies where Akhilesh's party would be contesting the majority of seats and was likely to have RLD as a junior partner in Western Uttar Pradesh, which was once a stronghold of Ajit Singh.

PTI