Akhilesh Yadav
In picture: Akhilesh Yadav [right].IANS File Photo

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav has said that if his party and the Congress form a coalition in the state, they could fetch 300 seats in the Assembly elections of 2017. However, there is a question mark on whether such a combination will happen at all, although the possibility cannot be ruled out.

What Akhilesh said

The UP chief minister was quoted by DNA as saying: "Though samajwadis are going to form majority government in the state, if alliance takes place, it will win over 300 seats. The final decision in this regard will be taken by party national president." Clearly, Akhilesh, who is his party's chief ministerial candidate, has high hopes from the party in the upcoming election.

He also brushed aside any question of rift within the party and how it could affect ticket distribution to candidates before the upcoming election, saying: "Tickets are changed till the last moment. We will only field those who can win elections. I will give my suggestions and advice on assembly tickets to the party president."

Why the SP-Congress alliance may happen

The Congress needs a coalition in UP more than the SP, simply because the party had not come to power in the state since 1989. And the importance of the state can be gauged by the fact that it has sent the most number of prime ministers to power, including current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was elected from the Varanasi constituency.

The SP, however, is not entirely without the need of an alliance. For starters, the anti-incumbency factor has come into play in the state since the 1996 Assembly elections, before which present-day arch-rivals – the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP was in coalition and held power.

The fact the BJP has made some inroads into the state means no party may get a complete majority to stake claim to power, and therefore may need a coalition partner. That is where talk of the SP-Congress combine comes in. Clearly, the SP is confident that its seats combined with those from Congress pocket-boroughs like Raebareli and Amethi could give it enough strength to form government.

However, as Akhilesh said, the decision will depend on the "national president" - Mulayam Singh, who harbours ambitions to become prime minister, and could use the coalition at the state level as a stepping stone to make that dream come true.