Amid reports that the SP and the BSP might leave the Congress out from an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said on Sunday if his party is excluded from the coalition in the state, any nationwide anti-BJP front will be "weakened" and it may lead to a "stillborn situation". Khurshid said cobbling together a grand alliance in UP will be the "trickiest" exercise for all opposition parties in the state and asserted it was crucial for the Congress, the SP, the BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) to join forces to put up a formidable challenge against the BJP.
In an interview to PTI, the former UP Congress chief said the situation in the state was "fluid" and party chief Rahul Gandhi was taking a "cautiously optimistic view", while keeping his "mind and heart open" for alliances for the 2019 general election.
Asked about reports that the SP and the BSP may leave out the Congress from the alliance in UP, Khurshid said, "I think it is a little bit of posturing, but I can't say for sure...I have no reason to believe it to be true or not to be true, but it will be myopic if the Congress is kept out of the alliance in UP because it may have an impact on the larger alliance nationwide."
"If UP does not contribute in a wholesome manner to the larger alliance nationwide then the alliance nationwide itself will get weakened and it may cause a stillborn situation," he said.
The 65-year-old leader expressed optimism over forging of the grand alliance in the state and said it will be the best thing that can happen to the Indian politics.
"Each one of us will have to give and take, there can't be just a take-take or give-give position. So, with a give and take of the right kind among all four of us, we will put up a good fight to the BJP. If it doesn't happen, it will be a historic loss," the former Union minister asserted.
Khurshid's remarks come amid reports claiming that the BSP and the SP were getting ready to announce their Lok Sabha tie-up without the Congress. The Congress has dismissed the reports as "rumours".
The BSP too had denied the reports that the party would formally announce the tie-up on January 15, party chief Mayawati's birthday.
However, the BSP and the SP neither attended the joint Opposition meet chaired by Sonia Gandhi on December 10, nor the recent swearing-in ceremonies of the Congress chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
In response to a question, he said forging a grand alliance will be the "trickiest" in UP as compared to other states not just for his party but for all the parties.
On whether the Congress was poised for resurgence in UP following victories in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Khurshid sounded optimistic but asserted UP was a different ball game altogether as the party has been out of power there for a very long time.
Because of regional parties, the Congress has been squeezed out in the state and it was a "steeper climb" in UP than in the other states, he said.
"You can't expect overnight impact which would be enough for us to be able to have a very significant substantial presence (in UP). It is going to be a step by step affair in UP," he said.
On SP and BSP offering unconditional support to Congress governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Khurshid said their support was wlcome and hoped that "this can go further". "But thus far, it is only up to here."
Noting that the Congress had about 7 per cent vote share in the last elections and may have gained 3-4 per cent since then, Khurshid said the party needs to get into the range of 18 per cent to make an impact.
"So we need a much longer plan...Now whether it will have to be done via an arrangement with other parties, to begin with, or it has to be done in parallel with them, independently of them etc., is something we will have to decide in due course as we move forward," he said.
Acknowledging that the base of the SP and BSP was larger than the Congress in UP, Khurshid said it was important to be conscious of the difference in vote shares and be realistic about any negotiations.
On whether the recent Congress wins have changed the dynamics of a grand alliance at the national level, Khurshid said the ground situation had certainly changed.
"Nobody is blind to the ground situation, whether they want to admit it (or not) for strategic and for purposes of negotiations, but I think the reality cannot be escaped by anyone," he said.
On Gandhi being looked upon as a serious contender to Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the victories in the Hindi heartland states, Khurshid said the Congress president had led from the front and the ground reality was there for everyone to see.
"He has led us to victory in three very important states. So we have to keep that in mind, you cannot blind yourself to it. You can't ignore it. We have all been in the party, we have all been supporting him because we believe that he is the future for our party and he is the future for the country," the senior Congress leader said.
Asked how many seats in UP will the Congress be content with fighting in a grand alliance, the former Farrukhabad MP said it would be inadvisable to venture a guess as some may say 'he is asking for a lot, while others may say it is too little'.
Asked if he will contest this time from Farrukhabad, Khurshid said if his party wants him to then he will. He added, "For me there is only Farrukhabad and there is UP. For me, there is no other option."