Ahead of the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh scheduled next year, the Congress is in talks with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which is a prominent party in western Uttar Pradesh. As per sources, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda has reportedly met senior RLD leader Jayant Chowdhury a couple of times. When asked, Hooda said that “for strengthening the prospects of Congress, there have been talks with many like-minded parties”, though he did not specifically comment on a possible tie-up with the RLD. Hooda, who is the son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, shares good rapport with the Jat leaders in Uttar Pradesh and has been roped in by the Congress to work on the Jat-dominated areas. Though everyone is tight-lipped over the issue, sources said that the RLD is reportedly in talks with the Samajwadi Party (SP). Tie-up with the RLD can help the Congress strengthen its presence in the Jat-dominated areas, which are also the epicentre of the farmers’ agitation in the state. While Jayant Chowdhury could not be contacted, RLD General Secretary Trilok Tyagi said that the party is open to alliance which it will finalise soon, and alliance talks are on only with the Samajwadi party right now. RLD is going to release its manifesto on October 31 in Lucknow, he said. The Congress in Uttar Pradesh is trying to stitch an alliance with the smaller parties like the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (PSP) ahead of next year’s Assembly polls. PSP founder Shivpal Yadav, the estranged uncle of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, has some influence in Etawah, Mainpuri and Sambhal areas, where Yadavs form a sizeable ppopulation. Senior Congress leader Acharya Pramod Krishnam was seen accompanying Shivpal Yadav, who embarked on his ‘Samajik Parivartan Yatra’ on Tuesday from Mathura. Congress leader and MLC Deepak Singh said that after Priyanka Gandhi’s efforts, the Congress has become a serious player in the state, and alliances with smaller parties are not a bad idea. However, Singh said that he did not know officially if talks for alliance were happening. In the last Assembly elections in 2022, the Congress had tied up with the Samajwadi Party. However, the results failed to justify the tie-up as the Congress could not even cross the double-digit mark, while the BJP swept the polls.