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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014

Of mercurial allies and making tough economic reforms

Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 21, 2012
First Published: 00:25 IST(21/9/2012) | Last Updated: 00:28 IST(21/9/2012)

Mulayam Singh Yadav has done it again, the Opposition would have one believe.

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He’s acting under duress to keep supporting the UPA at the Centre, they’d insist, alluding to the disproportionate assets case the CBI is probing against the Samajwadi Party chieftain.

Politics is indeed at times a combination of threats, inducements and quid pro quos.

The State’s coercive powers are used to make adversaries and recalcitrant allies fall in line. But it happens when cliques or cabals in power have a writ that runs.

The UPA today is weak, gasping for breath and short on credibility and resolve.

It can only persuade or placate allies. It cannot threaten or dictate terms.

For these reasons, reading Mulayam’s mind and that of Mayawati could be more enlightening. They’ve little love for the UPA. But they wouldn’t time its slaughter to set up a feast for the BJP.

A sudden death or a tangible weakening of the UPA at the current juncture would only help the saffron party retain power in Himachal and Gujarat where neither the SP nor the BSP has sizeable presence on the ground. The contest in polls due there by the year-end is between the Congress and the BJP.     

Politically savvier than the straight-talking, plain-speaking, emotionally-driven Mamata, the BSP’s Mayawati needs no tight-rope-walking on issues such as FDI in multi-brand retail. She can better consolidate her near-captive Dalit constituency through measures like reservation in promotions.

But Mayawati needs the Muslim vote to sew up a winning social combination in UP. The BSP lost the last assembly polls in the key state primarily on account of the minority alienation. She cannot therefore risk being blamed for the “secular” UPA’s early demise to the BJP’s advantage.

Her pragmatic impulses could even make her consider filling up the UPA vacancy after Mamata’s exit. But the mitigating SP factor makes such an eventuality seem far-fetched. 

Be that as it may, the UPA that reportedly has the numbers it needs must logically be taking a confidence vote rather than living with the BJP’s clamour for Parliament’s special session to discuss FDI in multi-brand retail on a motion entailing a division. But the Congress’s crisis managers see no need for it. With the SP and BSP’s support conveyed in writing to the Presidency still intact, the government isn’t and wouldn’t be in a minority even after withdrawal of support by Mamata, they argue.

So the question staring the UPA in the face isn’t of survival. It’s about simultaneously managing mercurial allies and a difficult economic situation through a slew of reforms.

Easier said than done? Only time will tell.


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