Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav on Friday said he might be open to joining an alternate political front to be led by the Trinamool Congress boss and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Mr Yadav – busy building a platform to challenge the BJP in the 2022 UP Assembly election – said the ruling party would be “wiped out” in Uttar Pradesh like they were by Ms Banerjee in the Bengal polls.
“I welcome her. The way she wiped out the BJP in Bengal… the people of Uttar Pradesh will wipe out the BJP,” Mr Yadav told reporters in Jhansi, where he was holding a yatra‘
“We will speak about it when the time is right,” he told the reporter who asked him that question.
The former UP Chief Minister also wrote off the Congress. “The public will refuse them… and they will get 0 seats in the upcoming election,” he said, hitting back at Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for her jibes.
On Thursday, at a rally in western UP’s Moradabad, Ms Gandhi Vadra questioned Mr Yadav’s absence from Lakhimpur during protests after four farmers were crushed to death under a jeep belonging to the son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra. Mr Mishra’s son in is jail for his alleged role in the murders.
The two parties worked together in 2017 but “we did not have a good experience”, Akhilesh Yadav told NDTV this month, adding, “Uttar Pradesh has rejected the Congress.”
At Jhansi, Mr Yadav also took a shot at the BJP over the Purvanchal Expressway inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He claimed the BJP was taking credit for projects initiated by his party.
“If Samajwadi Party can build the Expressway in 22 months why did BJP take 4.5 years to do the same work? This is because they don’t want to work for the welfare of people in UP,” he declared.
Akhilesh Yadav is stitching together a “rainbow” alliance ahead of the UP election, relying on an assortment of regional parties in the eastern part of the state and votes from farmers in the west.
The buzz of a link-up between him and the Trinamool comes on the back of both outfits taking swipes at the Congress, seen by many as losing its place as de facto leader of the opposition.
The two – the Samajwadi Party and the Trinamool – also exchanged friendly comments in the build-up to the Bengal election, with Mr Yadav saying his party would campaign on the Trinamool’s behalf.
Ms Banerjee, meanwhile, has been canvassing converts – many have joined from the Congress – since defeating the BJP in Bengal. She was in Mumbai this week to meet NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray, who is Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s son.
During her visit she dismissed the notion of a still-active Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), exclaiming: “What is UPA? There is no UPA!” More ominously, while in Delhi last month, Ms Banerjee scoffed at the idea she had to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
The Congress has hit back with senior leader Kapil Sibal underlining the party’s position as “the soul” of the UPA, which was in power at the centre for two terms before the BJP took over.