Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s idea of converting the party’s silver jubilee celebrations on November 5 into a message for a grand alliance for next year’s Uttar Pradesh polls has drawn a subdued response from leaders of other regional parties.
While Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar will skip the Lucknow event, leaders of other regional parties are apprehensive about the prospect of doing business with Mulayam after the bitter experience with him last year, when the SP leader had abruptly walked out of the “secular alliance” ahead of the Bihar polls.
The regional satraps are driven by the common concern of preventing the continuing rise of the BJP, but prefer a “wait and watch” policy on alliance plans, especially in the backdrop of the ongoing power struggle within UP’s ruling family.
Nitish dashed to Delhi to review UP’s political developments at a meeting with party leaders, including Sharad Yadav and KC Tyagi.
“The Bihar chief minister will not attend the Lucknow event. It has not been decided whether other party leaders will attend,” JD(U) spokesman KC Tyagi said.
In a related development, Congress poll strategist Prashant Kishor met Mulayam to discuss the possibilities of firming up a “Bihar-type” secular alliance in UP. Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, accompanied by Jaya Prada, were briefly present at the meeting.
Amid an ongoing family war within the SP, Mulayam had abruptly floated the ‘mahagathbandhan’ idea last month.
Last week, his brother Shivpal — engaged in a bitter power struggle with nephew and UP CM Akhilesh Yadav — had met or called up leaders of several regional parties to invite them for the Lucknow event.
“Mulayam’s plan appears focused on the upcoming UP elections. The grand alliance idea needs to be much more broad-based. We do not think the time is ripe to put together an alliance,” said a senior JD (U) leader.
A senior Rashtriya Lok Dal leader said Mulayam’s idea had no relevance to the UP elections.
“Only an alliance between the SP and Mayawati’s BSP can be considered formidable in the UP context,” the RLD leader said.
RLD’s chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh and president Lalu Prasad are likely to attend the Lucknow event in their “individual capacity”.
“While past experience with Mulayam has been bitter, we also have reservations about supporting the anti-Akhilesh faction. Akhilesh has a good image, but the levers of the party structure are being controlled by Mulayam and Shivpal. The SP ruling family first needs to set its house in order. The grand alliance plans can wait,” a senior JD (U) leader said.
Nitish has been working at floating a “fourth vertical” in UP by attempting to bring the JD (U), RLD and other smaller parties on the same platform — with tacit support of the Congress as well.
For its part, the Congress is unlikely to accept any alliance proposal that has Mulayam in the lead role, given the Bihar experience. The party will prefer Akhilesh as the face of the proposed ‘mahagathbandhan’ in view of his “clean image” and “good rapport” with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.