Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav today distanced himself from Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, diminishing the Congress march’s chances of acting as a possible catalyst for Opposition unity.
“Our party has a different ideology. The BJP and Congress are the same,” the Samajwadi Party chief said while responding to reporters’ questions.
He was asked if he’s been invited for the Yatra, which is currently on a break and resumes with entering UP from Delhi on January 3.
“If you have an invitation on your phone, please, send it to me,” Akhilesh Yadav told reporters.
“Our sentiments are with their yatra,” he added, “I have received no invitation.”
This comes even as sources in the Congress had said an invitation was sent not only to Akhilesh Yadav — whose party is biggest Opposition force in UP — but also to BSP leader Mayawati. NDTV had reported that neither of them is likely to join, nor would SP’s ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) led by Jayant Chaudhary.
SP spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari has said that his party supports the idea of Bharat Jodo Yatra, but added that it did not want to spark speculation of a possible alliance.
The Congress and SP have been crucial allies, and had bitter breakups, several times in the past — from fighting together as recently as the 2017 UP polls, to the historic moment in 2008 when the SP saved Manmohan Singh’s UPA government from collapsing.
As things stand today, the SP remains the main Opposition in UP to Yogi Adityanath’s BJP government, while the Congress has just two seats in the assembly and may need a partner to make any mark in the 2024 mega-fight against PM Narendra Modi.
Akhilesh Yadav is cautious, though, in the backdrop of the debacle their alliance faced in 2017. In contrast, sans the alliance, Samajwadi Party did much better in this year’s elections.
As for Mayawati — whose party’s ground is receding fast in a state she ruled not long ago — she has been bitterly critical of the Congress in recent statements. Before the 2022 UP polls, she’d said supporting the Congress could lead to a needless split in anti-BJP votes. Her not joining Rahul Gandhi’s march is no surprise, thus; but the Congress inviting her is a message that it wants unity across the board against the BJP.