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Explained: Why Is Akhilesh Yadav Skipping Rahul Gandhi's 'Nyay Yatra' In UP, What's Tussle Between SP And Congress?

While Samajwadi Party (SP) chief and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav unilaterally announced last month that the Congress party would contest on 11 seats in the state in the 2024 general elections, talks are apparently still going on between the two parties.

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Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav Photo: File photo
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In yet another sign of unease in the INDIA bloc, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday said that he is skipping the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' in the state.

Akhilesh said that he will only join Rahul's yatra after the seat-sharing talks between the SP and Congress are finalised.

The remarks from Akhilesh came on the day the SP unilaterally announced candidates on 11 Lok Sabha for the upcoming 2024 general elections. This is the second time the party has unilaterally announced candidates for the upcoming elections.

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Earlier, Akhilesh had unilaterally announced that the Congress party will contest on 11 seats even as the Congress leadership maintained that the talks are ongoing between the two parties. There have also been reports that the two parties not only disagree on the number of seats but also which seats they would contest.

Here we explain what Akhilesh has said now, what its implications are for the INDIA bloc in UP, and what's the SP-Congress tussle in the state.

Akhilesh Yadav To Skip Rahul Gandhi's Yatra

SP chief and former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav on Monday said that he will not attend Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' in the state.

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Rahul's yatra covered Amethi, his family bastion that he lost in 2019 polls, on Monday and is slated to cover Rae Bareli on Tuesday. In Amethi, Rahul was joined by Congress chief and INDIA bloc chairman Mallikarjuna Kharge.

Speaking to the media in Lucknow, Akhilesh said he will not attend Rahul's yatra in UP until the seat-sharing talks between Congress and SP are finalised.

"Several rounds of dialogues have happened and several lists (of seats) have been exchanged. When seat distribution will be finalised, Samajwadi Party will join Congress’s Nyay Yatra," said Akhilesh in Hindi.

Akhilesh's position runs afoul of his stand expressed earlier this month. Earlier on February 6, the Congress party had sent an invitation to Akhilesh to join Rahul's yatra when it would enter UP on February 16. He had accepted the invitation at the time and had said that he would either join at Amethi or Raebareli, the seat held for a long time by Rahul's mother and former Congress President Sonia Gandhi. She has vacated the seat this time to skip Lok Sabha elections. She is instead joining the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan.

In addition to accepting the invitation, Akhilesh had said that the INDIA bloc along with his party’s strategy centred on "PDA": Picchde (backward classes or OBCs), Dalits, and Alpsankhyak (minorities), according to The Indian Express. He was further quoted as saying that the two parties will create a "new history of victory".

What's Congress-SP tussle in UP?

The absence of SP chief and former Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav from Congress party's 'Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra' on Monday is the latest sign of the unease within the INDIA bloc — particularly in UP. The unease first became public last month.

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In January, Akhilesh unilaterally announced that the SP has allocated 11 Lok Sabha seats for Congress for the 2024 general elections. That took Congress by surprise and it said that "constructive" talks were still going on at the time. Then, unilaterally again, SP announced 16 party candidates for the 2024 elections.

For the Congress party, this is the latest snub after Trinamool Congress has gone solo in West Bengal and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced it will contest all seats in Punjab by itself.

In UP, the Congress is miffed about two things, according to reports. One, the unilateral allocation of 11 seats to Congress and SP's unilateral announcement of its candidates. Two, the SP dictating what seats the Congress party may contest on.

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In an article for India Today, Kumar Abhishek noted, "It is also noteworthy that SP has not only reserved 11 seats for Congress but also selected which ones, although this has not been officially announced yet. According to sources, SP has prepared a list of seats for Congress, including Amethi and Rae Bareli, and others in Western Uttar Pradesh like Fatehpur Sikri or Agra, Bulandshahr, Noida, Ghaziabad, Saharanpur, Kanpur, and Maharajganj, if talks progress favourably."

There have been reports that the Congress has been pushing for 20-25 seats in UP instead of 11 that Akhilesh has allocated for the party.

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Abhishek further reported that while the SP could allocate two or four more seats to Congress, it's unlikely to accept the demand of 20-25 seats.

In UP, the third partner of the INDIA bloc, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), has already quit the coalition to join the BJP-led INDIA. Prior to jumping ships, disagreements had been reported between the SP and RLD over the specific seats that the RLD would contest on.

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