This is dil ka alliance, mil ke jeetenge (It is an alliance of heart, we will win together)… says Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi while addressing a joint press conference with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.
In a clear show of camaraderie and personal bonding, the scions of Congress and Samajwadi Party on Sunday came together to give a call for crushing BJP’s divisive politics of anger for the progress, prosperity, peace and people of Uttar Pradesh in the Assembly elections.
In their first joint appearance after the alliance between the Congress and SP came through after hard bargaining, Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi said the alliance was for three Ps(progress, prosperity and peace) to which SP president and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav added the last P(people).
Days after stitching up an electoral alliance for the high stakes assembly polls, Rahul arrived in Lucknow in a special plane from Delhi for the joint press meet followed by a joint road show in the state capital.
The meeting also assumes significance as this was the maiden outing of the two leaders since reaching a seat-sharing agreement for the polls, which starts from February 11.
Out of the 403 assembly seats, Congress will be contesting in 105 and SP the rest 298 seats.
With an aim to tell people that the two parties were their choice in the elections, Rahul and Akhilesh launched the poll campaign with a tagline – ‘UP ko ye saath pasand hai’ (UP relishes this alliance).
The refrain of the duo at the crowded press conference was to send out a strong message to party cadre from both sides to work together to ensure the defeat of the saffron party.
To a question on Ram Temple, Rahul said since it was a sub-judice matter, he would not comment on it.
He said BJP rakes up the issue during every election.
His reply came to a question on BJP’s manifesto which says efforts would be made to get Ram temple built in Ayodhya within the law.
Terming themselves as two wheels of a bicycle, Akhilesh said “There is not much difference in ages between us and today is the beginning.”
“Rahul and I will take the state ahead on the path of prosperity,” he said at the hour-long press conference.
The Congress leader said partnership between Congress and SP is an answer to BJP’s divisive politics of anger.
“The alliance is the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna out of which the Saraswati of development will come out… We have similarities and opposition too. We want to contest the elections on similarities and will also have to do some compromises…,” Rahul chipped in.
Rahul played down certain unresolved issues like who will contest how many seats in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the stronghold of his party, terming them as peripheral issues.
“This is a historic alliance…all leaders are working together for a goal which is to defeat fascist forces, RSS, BJP…
“Alliance for Lok Sabha polls is open for discussion,” Rahul said to a question as to whether he will be the PM face in 2019 elections as Akhilesh is the CM face in 2017 polls.
Rahul, who took most of the questions, was also clear that though he admits the BSP government did commit mistakes but his respect for Mayawati and Kanshi Ram was intact and there can be no comparison between Mayawati and BJP.
“I respect Mayawatiji personally and Kanshiramji. BSP ran government and committed mistakes but the respect is intact… There is a lot of difference between BJP and BSP. BJP’s ideology is harmful to country but Mayawati’s ideology is not. Do not compare Mayawatiji with RSS,” he stressed.
Asked if BSP could also be taken along in the alliance against BJP, Akhilesh made a light-hearted comment, saying Mayawati whose symbol is elephant will require a lot of space.
To a question on Congress’ earlier foray with BSP in the 1996 assembly polls, Rahul said “History is not static and keeps changing and saying that alliance in 1996 with BSP was wrong and so it will be wrong this time too… situation is different now and it is right strategically for the state, the country as well as for Samajwadis.”
To a specific question as to whether Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav will take part in electioneering, Rahul said “We will want all those who support our ideology to come with us”, declining to divulge the campaign strategy.
When it was pointed out that the campaign launched by the Congress earlier carried the slogan ’27 saal, UP behal’ which was also against the SP, Rahul remarked “I had said Akhilesh is a good boy, but he wasn’t allowed to work… his intentions have been good and we support that intention to transform the state.”
“We want to stop the aggression that RSS-BJP is spreading and the false promises they are making,” Rahul said, adding, “We want to give the youth of UP a new path, a new politics.”
To questions whether Priyanka Gandhi and Dimple Yadav will campaign for the alliance, Rahul said, “Priyanka (Gandhi) has been of tremendous help to me and so have I. Whether she campaigns or not, it’s her choice. She is an asset to the Congress.”
“Dimple is an MP, she will decide what she has to do,” Akhilesh pointed out.
Rahul said,”This alliance isn’t opportunistic. We will explain to Modiji, BJP and RSS that UP and its people are one. We will not let them create a divide.”
On the negotiations on alliance which had at one time appeared like breaking down, the Congress leader said, “During negotiations there was posturing. He (Akhilesh) said something, I said something, he pretended to be angry and so did I. It’s part of negotiations. Media should not take this too seriously.”
“This is dil ka alliance, mil ke jeetenge (It is an alliance of heart, we will win together),” Rahul said, adding “The message to PM Modi through this alliance is that Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians are one. We won’t let Modi divide the nation.”
Akhilesh reiterated that the ‘cycle'(SP symbol) and ‘hand’ (Congress symbol) will together speed up the progress of Uttar Pradesh.
The alliance has the catch line of “UP koh yeh saath pasand hai (UP likes this tie-up).
“It is a people’s alliance. There is no doubt, we will win all the seats. Development work will be faster now. Cycle and Hand is a great combination,” Akhilesh said.
Noting that both the leaders were together in the Lok Sabha, the SP chief said, “We know each other. Now we are glad that we have to work together.”
Akhilesh said people of the state will respond to those who are responsible for making them stand in queues. They are not satisfied with notes ban move.
“We have seen winters, summers, monsoon. We also saw yesterday’s manifesto. But has anyone seen achchhey din yet?”
On Congress-SP seat sharing in Amethi and Rae Bareli, he said “If we tell you everything right away, there will not be any masala left.”
To a question about Sheila Dikshit as Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate, he said “We have had a long relationship with her and the party. What we plan to do in next elections we can’t say at the moment. We’ll sit and decide”.
Photograph: Sandeep Pal