In 1995, when governor Moti Lal Vora hurriedly invited BSP leader Mayawati to form her first government with outside support from the BJP, Mulayam Singh Yadav had said in an informal conversation, “The Congress has committed a blunder. They’ve lost Dalit votes forever.” He was spot on. Once the Dalits found their own chief minister, they never looked back at the upper caste-driven Congress.
Today when his rebel son is changing the political course in the state by allying with the Congress, Mulayam is seemingly disturbed. One, he always held the view that the alliance will strengthen the Congress which has been in the wilderness for 27 years. Second, there is no surety that after elections that Congress will not ditch the SP if the numbers favour the BSP in government formation. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s praise of Mayawati and Kanshi Ram has not gone down well with the SP cadre who are sceptical about their partner’s intentions. Second, Mulayam doesn’t agree with the division of Muslim vote theory as he is supremely confident about his ability to garner their votes. He had told a confidant now contesting elections on a BSP ticket, “Muslims will vote for SP because of me and not alliance with the Congress.” Despite the compatibility of vote bases, he prefers post-poll arrangements. However, what he does not realise is that the political discourse in the state has changed ever since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. In their desperation to stop BJP’s victory in UP, the Muslims will dump any party or leader.
However caught in a time warp, Mulayam minced no words in condemning the alliance on the day the two scions – Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi -- launched a roadshow to move the alliance from the headlines to the field. He himself has hobnobbed with the Congress in the past - in 2004 to share power at the Centre and in 2009 for an alliance with the Congress. His close associate Amar Singh was the messenger, while he as chief minister remained ensconced in Lucknow. His criticism, thus, is on expected lines. It was his damaging statement appealing the cadre to speak against the alliance that has come as a surprise as at stake is not only his son’s political career but that of the party he had founded in 1992. His statement, even if given under some ‘external pressure’ or to ‘ diffuse the rising rebellion’, will only help his two arch political rivals – the BJP and the BSP. His vote bank, now inherited by his son, will split two ways. While a section of disillusioned Yadavs will move to the BJP, the Muslims will find ‘undependable’ BSP stronger.
Maybe the young leadership of both the SP and the Congress are experimenting with what many describe as ‘short-sighted politics’ that may or may not help them win the polls, but can throw a spanner in the works at a time when a resurgent BJP is trying to capture UP and strategist Mayawati is exploiting the SP family feud. Whichever way things go, his recent statements do not reflect the political wisdom that Mulayam is famous for.