New Delhi/Lucknow: Congress on Wednesday did not rule out the possibility of a pre-poll alliance with like-minded parties like Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, while its chief ministerial face Sheila Dikshit offered to step aside in favour of a young Akhilesh Yadav.

Soon after the announcement of poll schedule for five states including the key battleground state of UP, Congress kept its options open to ally with Samajwadi Party to stop the “fascist" forces from coming to power.

Congress spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters that the party is preparing to contest all seats in the state as there is no talk of an alliance or an understanding today, but is ready to join forces with like-minded parties.

“But if the issue of coming together of like minded parties will gain ground to defeat ‘fascist and communal’ forces, the Congress high command will take a decision in the matter," he said.

Gohil welcomed the announcement of poll schedule by the Election Commission and said, “The Congress party is fully prepared to contest in these states". “We are confident that in four states, with the blessings of the voters, we shall form government," he said, adding that in Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi received a lot of support from people during his Kisan Yatra.

Dikshit, when asked about her role in case of an alliance, said, “There are unconfirmed reports of an alliance with Samajwadi Party. If that happens, then certainly I would like to see a young chief minister of Uttar Pradesh."

Dikshit said she has only heard from Akhilesh Yadav that if there is an alliance between Congress and his party, the results would be good. “If the report that Mr Akhilesh is going to lead the campaign (is true), then it would be proper for me to step out. If we get together, I would rather have him there than me," she said, adding that he is young as well as experienced. She, however, rejected suggestions that she was being made a “scapegoat" in Uttar Pradesh as she would abide by whatever the party decides and asks her to do.

In Lucknow, Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “As of now, we are working on the recommendations of the screening committee for all the 403 seats in the state ... what can happen in future will be known only later ... but there is a lot of pressure on secular parties (for alliance)."

Azad, who attended the state party’s executive committee meeting said, “The 36-member State Election Committee will meet here from tomorrow for three days in which names of the candidates will be finalised." The Congress leader, however, did not openly advocate alliance with any party for the coming polls.

Talk of a possible alliance with Congress had hit a roadblock with SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav ruling out such a possibility and favouring only merger of parties with SP. With the Akhilesh faction breaking away from the original Samajwadi Party, the possibility of an alliance with Congress has brightened.

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