Congress News

Prime Minister Modi Doubles His Rallies In Uttar Pradesh

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Before the Uttar Pradesh election began, the Bhartiya Janata Party had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi would only address 10-12 rallies over the seven phases of polling between 11 February and 8 March. However, he has already addressed 15 rallies and is all set to address at least 6 more, taking the total number to 21. There could still be even more. That's a ratio of at least 3 rallies per phase.

His last rally will be in Varanasi on 5 March. "The number of rallies has increased because of huge public demand. People want to see, hear and interact with the prime minister everywhere," says BJP spokesperson Chandra Mohan.

"The BJP was overconfident of winning UP. As the phases have gone by, they are trailing behind by a huge margin."


Samajwadi Party leaders, however, say this sounds a lot like Bihar 2014 assembly elections, where the prime minister had stepped up the number of his rallies mid-way, addressing a total of 31 rallies during the election campaign.

"The BJP was overconfident of winning UP. As the phases have gone by, they are trailing behind by a huge margin. That's why the PM has increased his rallies and changed his language from development to communalism," says Samajwadi Party spokesperson Sharvendra Singh.

The mid-way decision to increase his rallies does suggest a change of strategy. Significantly, the frequency of rallies increased after the first two phases, in which many believed the BJP didn't do as well as it expected, thanks to the Jat shift to the Rashtriya Lok Dal.

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Before the elections began, the BJP had decided not to overplay the Modi card, for fear of a Bihar-like attack from the SP, which could have turned it into an Akhilesh versus Modi election, just like Bihar became a Nitish versus Modi election. However, as the election narrative failed to become Akhilesh versus Modi, the prime minister has quietly increased the number of rallies.


BJP sources say the number of rallies could be increased even further, and that they are being strategically held in districts the prime minister hasn't visited in over a year.

PM Modi has addressed rallies and public meetings at Meerut, Agra, Ghaziabad, Bijnaur, Badaun, Lakhimpur Kheri, Kannauj, Hardoi, Barabanki, Fatehpur, Urai, Allahabad, Basti, Bahraich and Gonda.

Four of the seven phases are over, the remaining three phases are all in eastern Uttar Pradesh that the SP had swept in 2012 and the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.


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Congress Divided Over Supporting Shiv Sena For The Post Of Mumbai Mayor

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MUMBAI -- Serious differences emerged on Saturday in the Congress party over the issue of extending support to the Shiv Sena for the post of Mayor after a hung house was thrown up in the recent elections to the country's richest civic body, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation.

AICC General Secretary and senior-most Congress leader Gurudas Kamat raised "strong objections" to even any discussion of a tie-up or indirect support to the Shiv Sena in the BMC.

"We have fought against both saffron parties all along for their divisive policies, and people will not spare us if we attempt to align with them," Kamat said in a strongly-worded statement.

"I have also informed Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi of my (this) opinion. I take strong objection to any discussion even, of having any tie-up or indirect support to the Shiv Sena in the BMC," the former Union Minister added.

He said it should be left to the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to sort out their problems and in the process "expose themselves and their lust for power".


Kamat's bombshell came a day after back-end efforts were believed to be underway in Maharashtra Congress to prop up the Shiv Sena for bagging the crucial post of Mayor if its tie-up with the BJP failed to materialize.

State Congress President Ashok Chavan and senior party leader Narayan Rane, a former Chief Minister, have already indicated an open mind on the issue.

"Is the Shiv Sena an enemy? No, there are no enemies in politics, that is my view," Chavan said.

However, he added that the Congress was not committing anything and is "waiting and watching the unfolding situation".

"We have to bear in mind that Shiv Sena is also in alliance with BJP in Maharashtra and at the Centre. If they leave the government, then we can consider ahead, so let them first decide," Chavan said.

In the 227-seat BMC house, the Shiv Sena emerged as the biggest party with 84 seats, but is barely a nose ahead of the BJP which has won 82 seats.


The third in queue is Congress with 31, Nationalist Congress Party with nine, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena with seven, Samajwadi Party with six, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen with two, one from a local party, besides five independents.

While Sena has secured support of four independents whose names have been declared, the BJP also claims the backing of four unknown independents.


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Manipur Has Been Ruined In The Last 15 Years By Congress, Says PM Modi At Imphal Rally

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IMPHAL -- Slamming the Congress party for "ruining" Manipur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said if the BJP comes to power in the state it will "do in 15 months what the Congress did not in the last 15 years".

He also assured there will be no economic blockade in the state.

"What Congress did not do in the last 15 years, I assure we will do it in 15 months. Wherever Congress is in power there is no development, there is only corruption," said Modi at a public rally here.

"There will never be an economic blockade when BJP comes to power in Manipur, I assure you this," he added.


The Manipur assembly elections will be held in two phases - 4 and 8 March - to elect 60 members of the state legislative assembly.

"Unity of Manipur, welfare of its people and development of the state is our only goal. You gave them (Congress) 15 years, give us five years. I assure you we'll complete the pending work in 15 months," said Modi.

"Manipur has been ruined in 15 years. Who is responsible? Congress did no development, do they deserve to be here now?" Modi asked.

He added, "The corruption that took place in Manipur in last the 15 years will be exposed by our government."


"If northeast India does not progress, the country's progress will not be complete. When Atalji formed the government, he made policies for overall development of the region. But Congress did not carry forward the good work," said Modi.

"Those who cannot ensure peace in the state have no right to govern Manipur. They made brothers fight each other in the state," he added.
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BJP Leaders Will Have To Get Their Blood Pressure Checked After Polls, Says Akhilesh Yadav

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JHANSI (UP) -- Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav today attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over demonetisation saying people will take revenge on BJP and its leaders will have to get "blood pressure checked" after 3rd and 4th phase of polling.

"BJP has put common man in queue for their own money. Now in the elections they will once again queue up against BJP. BJP has come to know about the people's mind and after the third and fourth phase, blood pressure of BJP leaders will have to be checked," Akhilesh told a rally with Rahul by his side.

"When PM needs water in between his address and he has to wipe his sweat, then think how much people will make him sweat," he said.

Stating that "mood of Modi has changed after his friendship with Akhilesh", Rahul said, "Now smile has evaporated from his face. He has also come to know that in UP, SP and Congress are going to form the government."

"Like after Bihar polls Modi did not utter the word Bihar, he will forget UP till 2019," he said.

"After showing film of 'achchhe din' to people now he (PM) is acting like Gabbar Singh of Sholay and says he wants to fight corruption and turned your hard-earned money into paper. Now people will take revenge," said Rahul.

Trying to strike an emotional chord with the people of Bundelkhand, Akhilesh reminded them of "empty water train sent for them by the Centre during drought" and claimed that the state government had come to their rescue.

Akhilesh also attacked Mayawati and cautioned people not to vote for BSP as it had joined hands with BJP earlier.

Rahul, who was very vocal against PM, said that after his 30-day Kisan Yatra he made a demand before the Prime Minister to waive loans of farmers but Modi "kept mum when I met him in this regard".

"Now he is saying let BJP win and he will get the loans waived. Modiji you are PM, call a cabinet meeting and waive the loans. For this you don't need to win elections," he said.

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Former PDP MP Tariq Hameed Karra Joins Congress

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NEW DELHI -- Five months after he quit the People's Democratic Party (PDP), MP Tariq Hameed Karra on Saturday joined the Congress party. He attacked the central government for "mishandling" the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing reporters at the Congress party headquarters, Karra said: "When we floated PDP in 1999, our basic declaration was against fascist forces and how we should take the state out of slumber."

"But after the 2014 assembly elections, the PDP, which had sought votes against (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's polarization politics, joined hands with him," he said.

"That decision forced me to distance myself from the party," Karra said.

He also said that he tried to distance himself from the PDP even when the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was Chief Minister. "I had started giving them warnings and suggestions," he said.

"I had told them it is not in the interest of the state and Indian polity that we give space to such people and such parties who have been engaged, since pre-Independence, in putting the social fabric of the country into jeopardy," he said.

He also accused the central government of mishandling the situation in the state in 2016 and said: "When the unrest started in Kashmir in 2016 BJP-PDP in connivance mishandled the situation and people of the state."

"They jailed people, they killed people and even blinded the children," he alleged.

"Thus my conscious did not allow me to remain in the PDP and I resigned," he said.

Karra resigned from the party on 16 September, 2016.


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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra To Campaign With Brother Rahul Gandhi In Rae Bareli Today

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After weeks of dilly-dallying, postponements and cancellations, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is set to campaign for the Congress in the ongoing Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on Friday.

According to senior Congress leaders of Uttar Pradesh unit, Priyanka will be showing up with brother Rahul Gandhi in Rae Bareli, a parliamentary seat held by her mother Sonia Gandhi.

The absence of Priyanka, who is a great crowd puller and is among the 40 'star campaigners' the party has listed for the polls, had reportedly upset the cadres, specially in the family bastion of Amethi-Rae Bareli, where she has been campaigning in previous elections.

This time, the Congress has entered an alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP).

Informed sources said many campaign programmes of Priyanka Vadra had been made and cancelled in the past owing to the seat-sharing formula on these seats continuing to be an irritant.

Now since both the alliance partners have withdrawn five candidates each from their side, she is said to have agreed to come and campaign.

She was one of the main negotiators with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav when the alliance talks were on the brink of collapse.

While her name has been repeatedly appearing in the star campaigner list of the party, she is likely to restrict herself to Amethi-Rae Bareli only, an informed party source told IANS.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to address a rally on February 20.

She has so far kept herself away from campaigning as she is reportedly not in "the best of health".

Rae Bareli goes to polls on February 23 and Amethi on February 27.

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PM Modi Only Knows How To Google, Consult Horoscopes And Peep Into People's Bathrooms: Rahul Gandhi

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LUCKNOW -- Taking a swipe at Narendra Modi for his "raincoat in bathroom" barb at Manmohan Singh, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the Prime Minister was more interested in "peeping into people's bathrooms".

The Gandhi also said that the Prime Minister will get a "jolt" once the results of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are out.

"Modi likes to read janampatri (horoscope), search Google and peep into people's bathrooms...but he is a failure as a Prime Minister," he said at a joint press conference with Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav where the SP-Congress alliance released a 10-point Common Minimum Programme (CMP).

"He (Modi) can do this (peeping into bathrooms) in his free time," Gandhi said.

His comments come against the backdrop of the Prime Minister's remarks in Parliament that one should learn the art of "bathing with a raincoat on" from former PM Manmohan Singh as there was not a single taint on him despite so many scams having taken place during his regime.

Modi had said in an election rally in Haridwar on Friday that BJP had a detailed dossier on the Congress leaders.

"Mein Congress ke logon se kehta hoon: jabaan sambhaal kar rakho, warna mere paas aapki poori janampatri padi hui hai (hold your tongue, I have your entire horoscope).

Reacting to this comment, Gandhi on Saturday dared him by saying, "You have been the Prime Minister for over two years now...You can take out the janmapatri of Congress and go ahead with it."


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In Uttarakhand, Rebels Are Here To Make The Polls Difficult For Both Congress And BJP


The Sashpur story

"Na rahega panja, na rahega phool aur hathi toh jayega doob!"(The palm—the Congress' symbol—will disappear, the lotus flower—BJP's symbol—will wilt, and the elephant—the BSP's symbol—will drown). As the slogan blared from a microphone, the 300 odd people who had gathered in a small village in Uttarakhand, broke into vigorous applause.

A fair number of the people attending the gathering were women. The hamlet of Bhauwala in Sashpur had turned up to listen to a Aryendra Sharma, a familiar face around there. Sharma rebelled after he was denied a ticket by the Congress and he is now contesting the 2017 elections as an independent candidate. Usually referred to by his first name by his voters, Aryendra was one of closest aides of N D Tewari—the grand old man of Indian politics. Tewari has the unique distinction of being the chief minister of two states: he headed Uttar Pradesh thrice and Uttarakhand once. And Aryendra has seen it all.

I was with the Congress. Even after I lost the last elections, I continued to be with you and have continuously worked for the area. But they let me down

"You all know what happened to me. I was with the Congress. Even after I lost the last elections, I continued to be with you and have continuously worked for the area. But they let me down," Sharma said is a rather monotonous voice. The sense of hurt and outrage, however, came through clearly. The crowd was listening to him intently. "They wronged him," an elderly man standing next to me murmured.

Aryendra, who is in his mid-fifties, has a shy demeanour. He isn't overly assertive and is more an old-school politician. As he ended his short address, he underlined in an unassuming way, "help me undo the wrong. On election day, go for the Torch". The "torch" is Aryendra's election symbol.

A mirror in Jatowalo

About 20 km away from Sashpur is Jatowalo where we saw a similar scenario, this time led by Laxmi Aggarwal. She was addressing a street corner meeting. She too had pulled a sizeable crowd. Like Aryendra, Laxmi too is a rebel. She had petitioned the BJP for a ticket which was denied. Her husband P K Aggarwal—a well-known and well-to-do businessman—had helped in constructing the BJP state headquarters in Uttarakhand. "The BJP doesn't value its workers," she said when asked why she chose to go it alone. "It is precisely why I wrested this seat," she said.

Aryendra Sharma and Laxmi Aggarwal, the two rebel candidates, are now a threat to both the Congress's Kishore Upadhyay and BJP's Sahdev Pundir.

Aryendra Sharma and Laxmi Aggarwal, the two rebel candidates, are now a threat to both the Congress's Kishore Upadhyay and BJP's Sahdev Pundir. Aryendra, who contested on a Congress ticket in the last elections, got 20,000 votes; he lost to his rival by only 5,000 votes. This election he says he will better his tally. And his vote gains will be Kishore Upadhyay's loss. Similarly, the votes that Laxmi Aggarwal gathers will have come out Sahdev Pundir's pocket.

The game of "Angry Birds"

Just like the popular video game "Angry Birds" where wingless birds, angry at a group of green pigs who steal their eggs, are launched on slingshots with the aim to eliminate pigs, the rebels and disgruntled party workers in the Uttarakhand elections are out to destroy and spoil the party with a vengeance.

There are about a dozen Congress rebels who have joined the BJP. All of them are now BJP candidates, leaving many BJP workers peeved and discontented. Similarly, Congress has fielded BJP rebels as its candidates. Rebels and their trail of unhappiness is a defining feature of the 2017 Uttarakhand elections.

Rebel trouble

Of the 70 Assembly seats in Uttarakhand, nearly half of them have rebels muddying the waters. Both the BJP and Congress have a fair share of rebel trouble. Candidates have either crossed over to the other side or, after being ignored by the respective parties, they have decided to put up a fight independently.

Another instance is BJP's Satpal Maharaj, a possible chief ministerial candidate contesting from Chaubattakhal, who is being harassed by his former colleague, BJP rebel Kavindra Istwal. Istwal can be found snipping at Maharaj's heels, coming too close for the latter's comfort.

At the bellwether constituency of Gangotri, Surat Ram Nautiyal of the RSS is contesting against his own. At Narendra Nagar, Congress rebel and now BJP candidate Subodh Unniyal faces his former colleague Om Gopal Rawat.

At the bellwether constituency of Gangotri, Surat Ram Nautiyal of the RSS is contesting against his own. At Narendra Nagar, Congress rebel and now BJP candidate Subodh Unniyal faces his former colleague Om Gopal Rawat. Similarly, S P Singh of the Congress, contesting from Jwalapur seat in Haridwar, will have a face-off with his former colleague Brij Rani. And in Bhimtal, rebel Ram Singh Kaira is giving a tough fight to Dan Singh Bhandari of the Congress.

Short circuit

From the Kotdwar constituency, the BJP has fielded Congress rebel Harak Singh Rawat. And in doing so, it denied party loyalist Shailender Rawat a ticket, who immediately resigned alleging that BJP had lost all its virtue. Sensing an opportunity, Harish Rawat pulled in Shailender Rawat and fielded him from Yamkeshwar constituency against Ritu Khanduri, who is veteran BJP leader B C Khanduri's daughter.

Now reportedly, in an interesting sharing of resources and support, Shailender Rawat is transferring his core vote to Congress' SS Negi who is taking on Harak Singh Rawat in Kotdwar. And in turn, Negi who has strong family ties in Yamkeshwar is helping Shailender Rawat by transferring his (Negi's) votes and loyalties.


Unlike other states, Uttarakhand has small constituencies. There have been instances where candidates have won by just three votes and in other places lost by just 72 votes. Every vote counts, literally. And therein lies the importance of the rebels for the final tally.



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Congress, In Its Over-Protective Zeal About Manmohan Singh's Modesty, Is Missing The Point About Political Low Blows


Just because Manmohan Singh is soft-spoken does not mean his political opponents have to go soft on him. He might be a reluctant politician but he is still a politician, a prime minister who served out two terms. The Congress cannot put him up on a shelf and mark him 'Extra fragile. Please handle with care.'

Singh, every now and then, can unleash pointed barbs, as his speech of demonetization showed. It worked because he unleashes those barbs only now and then. But to expect Narendra Modi to meekly swallow those taunts in some kind of deference to Singh's status as an elder statesman of Indian politics, and his predecessor, is just plain ludicrous.

The Supreme Court once ruled that our freedom of expression stopped at Mahatma Gandhi. It upheld a complaint against a satirical Marathi poem about the Father of the Nation saying Gandhi was off-limits. "You can lampoon, satire or criticize historical personalities but you can't attribute expletives to them."

But to expect Narendra Modi to meekly swallow those taunts in some kind of deference to Singh's status as an elder statesman of Indian politics, and his predecessor, is just plain ludicrous.

The Congress wants to turn Singh into their modern day Gandhi. That's why they are so upset that Modi mocked him in parliament. And he did it by extolling his predecessor as an honourable man, just one under whose watch there were scams galore. And yet there was no stain on Singh's own honour, marvelled Modi.

"Bathroom mein raincoat pehan kar nahana, ye kala toh Doctor Sahab hi jaante hain. Aur koi nahin jaanta. (Bathing in the bathroom in a raincoat is an art only Doctor Singh knows. Nobody else knows that.)

First there were surgical strikes. Now we are seeing "shower strikes".

It was a mischievous taunt, mocking in tone but delivered with the flourish of a Mark Antony. In true "For Brutus is an honourable man" style, Modi, sneakily raised the spectre of corruption while piously attesting to Singh's reputation for probity.

The Congress is apoplectic. "The Prime Minister's language is that of a street-corner address," says Abhishek Singhvi. "It was in extremely poor taste," says P Chidambaram. "The lower they go, the higher we must rise," said Ahmed Patel echoing Gandhi himself, or perhaps Michelle Obama.

In true "For Brutus is an honourable man" style, Modi, sneakily raised the spectre of corruption while piously attesting to Singh's reputation for probity.

But to cry foul exposes the bankruptcy of the Congress. They cannot defend themselves against the scams so they are reduced to using Singh's personal reputation of decency as some kind of desperate protection against that ill-repute. They are, in effect, using him, to borrow Modi's taunt, as a raincoat.

Obviously Singh's comments about "loot and plunder" rankled Modi. He brought those up in his remarks proving that he is a politician who is happy to nurse a grudge and wait patiently to stick in the dagger at the opportune moment. It can even be regarded as being in poor taste but much of political slanging is in poor taste. That's the nature of the game and as one who chose, or was chosen, to play that game Singh cannot now claim he does not want to get his hands dirty.


To be fair, Singh has said nothing. He is a dignified man and never loose-lipped. It's the Congress that is fluttering around him like nervous nannies as if the former prime minister cannot defend himself.

And why should the office of the prime minister turn anyone into a sacred cow? In Britain, a satirical puppet show called Spitting Image loved to show Margaret Thatcher as a cigar-chomping cross-dresser and it invented affairs for John Major. Even the Queen Mother was not off-limits.

Sure, some kind of unspoken rule of etiquette means American presidents rarely speak out harshly against their successors and Obama has held his peace even in the age of Trump though who knows if Trump will return that favour. But Obama is an ex-president. Singh is still technically an active politician, speaking up in parliament. He deserves respect as a former prime minister but that is not insurance against attack.

The Congress has every right to be offended. After all being offended is our national pastime. But to threaten to boycott Modi until an apology is forthcoming is hardly warranted.

The Congress has every right to be offended. After all being offended is our national pastime. But to threaten to boycott Modi until an apology is forthcoming is hardly warranted. As an Opposition party the Congress should have built on the momentum of Singh's much-covered speech on demonetization to build a strong case against the BJP as different states geared up for polls.


To corner the government in parliament about a botched implementation of demonetization would have shown its mettle as a national opposition party. To create outrage over the Finance Minister's grandiose claims that there was not a day of currency shortage would have shown it was an opposition with teeth. To act as its elder statesman's knight-in-shining-armour is hardly likely to win it much sympathy among voters.

In their rather misguided over-protective zeal the party misses one fundamental truth. If the Prime Minister's office protects Singh from such perceived low blows, then that same logic will protect Narendra Modi as well.

In their rather misguided over-protective zeal the party misses one fundamental truth. If the Prime Minister's office protects Singh from such perceived low blows, then that same logic will protect Narendra Modi as well. Is the Congress ready to surrender that right? Does it want to get embroiled in arguments about whether every criticism of Modi is personal or not?


In the end, here's the other truth. Is much of this outrage about the fact that Modi gave us a visual of Dr Singh in his bathroom? Is it some kind of prudery about bathrooms that has the Congress so red-faced? Let's get real. Modi at least granted him a raincoat. It's not like he said the emperor had no clothes.



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UP Assembly Polls: Sonia Gandhi Likely To Campaign For Candidates Under Rae Bareli Constituency


NEW DELHI -- Congress President Sonia Gandhi is likely to campaign for party candidates on seats falling under Rae Bareli Lok Sabha constituency for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections while daughter Priyanka is likely to canvas for the nominees in Amethi.

According to sources, Sonia who has been indisposed for some time and has not been active in handling party work for a few months now, is all set to campaign in Uttar Pradesh but will restrict herself to Rae Bareli.

Ending speculation on whether she will campaign in Uttar Pradesh after Congress forged a pre-poll alliance with Samajwadi Party in the state, Sonia reportedly confirmed that she will campaign in her Rae Bareli constituency.

Sources added that while both Sonia and Priyanka will campaign in Rae Bareli and Amethi, their schedule has not yet been finalised.

Sonia did not campaign in Punjab and Goa and is yet to canvas in Uttarakhand.

Amethi and Rae Bareli go to polls in the 4th and 5th phase of polling in the state on 23 and 27 February.

There are 10 assembly seats in Amethi and Rae Bareli in the Gandhi family's pocket-borough and have become a bone of contention between the two partners.

Congress will be contesting in a total of 105 seats in UP, with its ally Samajwadi Party contesting from 298 out of a total of 403 seats in the state.


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