LUCKNOW: Buoyed by the response it received in the first phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance is now drawing up a strategy to win 11 seats that it has failed to score in past years.

The seats include Lucknow, Varanasi, Baghpat, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Kanpur, Mathura, Hathras and Kushinagar. Amethi and Rae Bareli also come in this list but the alliance has not fielded candidates on these two seats leaving it to the Congress party in act of goodwill.

According to a senior Samajwadi Party leader, “We are working out a strategy to win these seats that have been held either by BJP or Congress in the past years. This time, we have the votes of SP and BSP together and we hope to wrest these seats.”

The Lucknow seat is a BJP stronghold. Since 1991 to 2009, the seat was held by former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 2009, the seat was won by Lalji Tandon, a senior BJP leader and then in 2014, Rajnath Singh won to become the Lok Sabha MP and the Union Home Minister.

The SP-BSP alliance has fielded Poonam Sinha, wife of actor MP Shatrughan Sinha on the Lucknow seat. Shatrughan Sinha recently joined the Congress but his wife is a Samajwadi candidate. He has been campaigning for her as has SP leader Akhilesh Yadav’s wife, in what is fast becoming a high profile contest.

The delay in announcement of Poonam Sinha’s name was, according to sources, because of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s reluctance to put up a strong candidate against Rajnath Singh. But clearly his objections have been overcome by his son with excitement now in the visibly enthusiastic SP workers.

Similarly, Kanpur has defied SP and BSP a victory. SriPrakash Jaiswal of the Congress held this seat from 1999 to 2014 while Dr Murli Manohar Joshi of BJP won the seat in 2014. Joshi was a reluctant traveller, in that he had to move here when he was compelled to vacate the Varanasi seat that was contested, and won, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This time, Sri Prakash Jaiswal is contesting on a Congress ticket while he is being challenged by Satyadev Pachauri of BJP. The Samajwadi Party has put up Ram Kumar as its candidate and hopes to cash in on the resentment in BJP over the denial of ticket to Murli Manohar Joshi.

Another such seat is Varanasi that was won by Murli Manohar Joshi of BJP in 2009 and by Mr Narendra Modi in 2014.Earlier, the seat was held by Rajesh Misra of Congress in 2004 while the BJP had won the seat from 1991 to 1999.The alliance candidate is yet to be decided for Varanasi. The plans here are not firm, as there is a possibility that the entire opposition might get behind a joint hi profile candidate to contest Modi. No names have been announced yet.

The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have also not succeeded in making their presence felt in Baghpat, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Mathura, Hathras and Kushinagar.

While Baghpat has mainly been a RLD bastion, other seats have been shared by BJP and Congress.

Pilibhit has also been held by BJP since 1999. Union minister Maneka Gandhi won the seat in 1999, 2004 and 2014. The seat was with her son Varun Gandhi in 2009, who is once again in fray and is being challenged by Hemraj Verma of the Samajwadi Party this time. The combined vote, sources said, should make a difference in favour of the gathbandhan in at least five of these 11 seats if not more.

SP and BSP have never made their mark in Amethi and Rae Bareli , both strong Congress bastions and both the parties have decided not to contest these two seats as a goodwill gesture towards the Congress.