Hours after the SP and the BSP announced a seat-sharing pact in Uttar Pradesh keeping the Congress out of it, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today said it was not a "setback" for the Congress and argued the grand old party might "give a surprise or two" to the people in the key Hindi heartland state. He said the Congress will fight with all its might in Uttar Pradesh.
Gandhi did not hit back at BSP supremo Mayawati for her barbs against the Congress and argued he still has "tremendous respect" for her, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav. He said the BJP is not going to get any seats in Uttar Pradesh irrespective of the fact that the Congress, SP and the BSP fight together or separately.
"The BSP and the SP have every right to have an alliance. I think the Congress party has a tremendous amount to offer the people of Uttar Pradesh. So we will obviously do our best. As the Congress party, we will fight for our ideology and I think we might give a surprise or two to the people about what the Congress party is capable of doing and how the Congress party can mobilise in Uttar Pradesh," he told a press conference in Dubai concluding his two-day visit to the UAE.
Gandhi said he has "tremendous respect for Mayawatiji, for Mulayam Singh Yadavji and Akhilesh ji and they are open to do what they choose" and added "we will obviously fight the election in UP.
While announcing an alliance between the SP and the BSP in Lucknow, Mayawati said the parties will not field candidates in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituencies of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.
Asked whether that keep the options for a post-election tie-up, Gandhi said "my position is clear. Mayawatiji and Akhileshji have taken a decision. And I respect Mayawatiji, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhileshji and it is their political decision. They must have taken decision after thinking through it. Now, Congress party will have to establish the party on its own. And it is up to us how we do it."
"We will fight the election with all our might. Because our fight with the BJP is an ideological fight…and we will see to it that we spread our ideology in Uttar Pradesh…They have taken a decision…..In a way they spoke something wrong about the Congress. But we accept that because it is our way. We do the politics of love. But we will create our space," he added.
Asked whether the Congress would go alone in other states also after the setback, Gandhi said the party has almost sealed alliances in several states.
"The situation is different in different states. One after other, alliance is being sealed effectively in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Bihar and in other states. That is not a problem. In Uttar Pradesh, I will not call it a setback because whether Mayawatiji or Mulayam Singhji and Akhileshji enter into an alliance or we three enter into an alliance, the BJP will not get any seats there," he said.
BOX on Sabarimala
In a surprise statement, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today said his initial position on the Sabarimala temple issue in favour of equality of women has changed,.
"I have heard both the arguments. My initial position was different from my position today. After having heard the arguments of the people of Kerala, I can see validity in both the arguments. I can see validity in the argument that tradition needs to be protected and I can validity in the argument that women should have equal rights," he said when asked about his personal view on the issue.
Gandhi had earlier said that his personal view point was that all men and women are equal and that all women should get permission to enter into the temple. The Congress central leadership too had spoken in favour of women equality, while the Kerala unit had been opposing it.
"So I would not be able to give you an open and shut position on this. And it is after I spoke to the people of Kerala, the PCC and the team in Kerala, that they explained to me the details of it, where I said ok this is much more complicated…and both sides have a valid position. I think I leave it to the people of Kerala to decide. That is what I told my unit over there…That look, we leave it to you. You have to decide what the will of the people of Kerala is," Gandhi said.