While political circles have been rife with rumours about the grand plans of the Congress to replace a troublesome UPA ally (read Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress) with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP), the two regional satraps have sprung a surprise by coming out with a joint plan for the Presidential elections.
On the face of it, Banerjee and Yadav have nothing in common. The former is considered emotional, mercurial and undependable, while the SP chief is said to be a grounded and sly politician of the old world mould.So, what explains this new found bonhomie between Yadav and Banerjee? Are they both working to a plan of resurrecting the Third Front concept before the 2014 general elections? Or — by proposing the candidature of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh among two others — are they doing a command performance at the behest of the UPA coalition’s lead partner? Or, is all this shadow boxing on their part?
Faced with Banerjee’s increasing intransigence on various issues, the Congress leaders had been making apparent overtures to the Samajwadi Party over the last few months.
At last month’s dinner celebrations on the completion of the UPA-2 government’s three years in office, the SP chief had been given the honour of sharing the high-table with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
More recently, the Congress decided not to field a candidate against Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple Yadav at the Kannauj Lok Sabha bypoll — seen as an indiscreet move to woo SP’s ruling family.
On the surface, Banerjee and Yadav have upturned what had been talked about as the grand strategy of the Congress to divide them. “Congress has been using us to counter Trinamool Congress (TMC). Now, we have a joint position with Mamata and Congress cannot take our support for granted,” said Rajesh Dixit, SP national secretary.
The teaming up of the two ‘unlikely friends’ is apparently a result of a premeditated plan, rather than being of spontaneous nature.
Banerjee’s TMC has been working at plans to expand base in Uttar Pradesh — having contested the recent Math assembly bypoll.
After her meeting with Yadav at the latter’s New Delhi residence on May 3, Banerjee had told reporters that a decision about their choice of a presidential candidate would be jointly announced.
On the swearing-in ceremony of Akhilesh Yadav as UP chief minister, the SP chief had sent out an invite to Banerjee. In the electoral college to elect the new President, the TMC and SP make a sizable block: the SP’s value of votes works out to 68, 812, while those of the TMC are valued at 48,049.