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Talaaq or lovers’ tiff
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 6
On Friday it was not clear if Congress and Samajwadi Party were heading for a talaaq or if they were engaged in a mere lovers’ tiff. The honeymoon seemed to be over and the two parties appeared to be drifting apart. What, however, was also clear is that both are willing to clutch at straws if they can escape from drowning.

SP general secretary Amar Singh did keep a window open by declaring, “Alliance or no alliance, we will not field candidates against Soniaji and Rahul in Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively,” he asserted. “We saved the UPA in the trust vote… but if Congress is not interested, we will accept it as our destiny,” he added.

The blow-hot-blow-cold relationship may not yet be finally over, with both Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Singh Yadav claiming that a final decision on the alliance is yet to be taken. The electoral understanding, they claimed, would be cemented at a meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi shortly.

That might indicate posturing on the part of Amar Singh, who could be piling up pressure to prepare the ground for seat-sharing. But if the electoral marriage does break-up over seat-sharing in Uttar Pradesh though, it will threaten to upset pre-poll calculations and jeopardize UPA’s prospects in the coming election. The UPA needs to do well in UP, which has 80 seats in the Lok Sabha, to retain hopes of returning to power.

But on Friday Amar Singh was busy writing the obituary, though he blamed the Congress. “The obituary of this alliance was written the day Congress unilaterally announced a list of 24 candidates to contest in Uttar Pradesh. We cannot offer them more than 17 seats… no party can be asked to part with winning seats,” he said.

The SP general secretary turned the knife in by pointedly calling on NCP leader Sharad Pawar later in the evening. Pawar, who makes no secret of his prime ministerial ambitions and who has already elicited support of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra for a bid at becoming the PM, discussed with the SP leader the possibility of a deal in Maharashtra, where SP is eager to contest some seats.

“Pawar ji Maharashtra ke hi neta nahin, desh ke bhi neta hain,” (Mr Pawar is a leader of not just Maharashtra but of the entire nation), declared Amar Singh while addressing the media. “We have told him that we would like to work with him in future”.

While displaying his deference to ‘Soniaji and Rahul’, Amar Singh was unsparing in his stinging barbs directed at the Congress. “We understand the Congress’ problem. They are very strong in Uttar Pradesh. Wasn’t their strength evident in the Bhadohi bypoll, where the Congress ended seventh,” asked the Samajwadi leader with a straight face.

Continuing with his banter, Singh said that SP could support Congress candidates in seats where SP does not have stronger candidates than the rival BSP.

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