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Rahul-Akhilesh rally in UP: An ‘uneasy’ marriage of convenience?

Lucknow : The coming together of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for a joint rally of the INDIA bloc on Friday does not seem to be a natural alliance.

Rather, it seems to be an awkward companionship, forced by circumstances.

The two leaders sat together on the dais in Kannauj on Friday, looking in opposite directions although they posed together for the shutterbugs. Their speeches did not show any signs of harmony of ideas either.

Akhilesh Yadav spoke of his connections with Kannauj, a seat he is contesting this time, and campaigned mainly seeking votes for himself. He spoke of how he was personally insulted when the Chief Minister’s house that he vacated was washed with ‘Ganga Jal’, but did not speak of national issues.

Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, spoke about the government’s failure to tackle inflation, unemployment and other issues that he has been talking about during campaigning.

At the end of his speech, he did make an appeal to the votes to elect Akhilesh Yadav in Kannauj.

Samajwadi Party sources, however, have confirmed that Akhilesh Yadav does not have any programme to campaign in Amethi or Raebareli, where the Gandhi family’s prestige is at stake.

The need for a joint rally was apparently felt because the INDIA bloc members have been known to sing their own songs – from Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal to Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh to Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar, among others.

The opposition, sources claimed, felt the need for at least one display of harmony, midway through the elections, and hence the rally.

It may be recalled that the relationship between Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav has never been harmonious. The two parties, however, left a window open for communication.

The Samajwadi Party has always avoided fielding candidates in Amethi and Raebareli while the Congress silently acknowledged the ‘favour’.

In 2017, when the two leaders came together for the UP Assembly elections, the alliance was ‘forced’ by strategist Prashant Kishor and egged on by Priyanka Gandhi.

The discomfort between Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav was evident — right from their joint press conference to the roadshow in Lucknow.

Akhilesh apparently feels that a long-term alliance with Congress could adversely impact his party.

The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, in fact, had fattened up on vote banks borrowed from the Congress.

The Samajwadi Party took away Muslim votes from Congress, while the BSP weaned away Dalits in the early nineties when the wave of the Ayodhya movement and Mandal politics swept the country.

A senior Samajwadi Party leader recalled, “Mulayam Singh Yadav was never in favour of an alliance with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh because he felt that this could open the door for the return of Muslims to the party. In 2017, the alliance was forced by circumstances and the result was disastrous for both parties.”

Another major factor that has not allowed the alliance to work is that the cadres of both Congress and Samajwadi Party have invariably been on the warpath, accusing each other of attempting to dominate them.

The coming together of Congress and Samajwadi Party, therefore, can be termed as a marriage of convenience since both parties are facing a low point — SP in Uttar Pradesh and Congress across the nation.

Both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav seem to realise this and have therefore agreed to this alliance.

Only time will tell if this marriage of convenience is headed for a divorce.

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