The Congress will prefer Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to his father and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in the event of a split in the ruling family of the country’s politically and electorally important state.
It is no secret that the Congress is wary of Mulayam’s “wavering” moves and its leaders often cite the SP chief’s volte-face in 1999.
After the fall of the BJP-led NDA government on April 17, 1999, by just one vote, Congress president Sonia Gandhi met the then President KR Narayanan on April 21 to seek time to form the next government. “We have 272 and more are coming,” she had said.
But Mulayam did a volte-face and announced that his party will not support the Congress. This left the Congress shell-shocked as it was banking on Yadav and Left parties to reach the magic figure. In turn, when Yadav floated the name of veteran CPM leader Jyoti Basu for the Prime Minister’s post, the Congress refused to support the Third Front.
Though the SP bailed out the UPA-1 in the July 22, 2008, trust vote the government had sought after Left parties withdrew support to it over the Indo-US nuclear deal, Mulayam again gave a tough time to the Congress in the 2012 presidential elections by floating the name of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
However, the SP chief eventually supported Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature.
The love-hate relations between the SP and the Congress have been witnessed many a times in Parliament during the regime of the present Modi government.
“We will any day prefer Akhilesh to Mulayam because of the CM’s clean image,” said a senior Congress functionary.
Akhilesh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi are said to share a good rapport and both have often praised each other on different occasions.
At last year’s Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Akhilesh offered a deal to the Congress, saying the SP was game for a tie-up if his father was made the PM candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with Rahul as his deputy.
The UP CM also backed Rahul’s “dalali” remarks against PM Narendra Modi on surgical strikes across the Line of Control and insisted that the Congress V-P is a good human being.
However, on Monday, the Congress tried to play safe. “Rahulji merely said Akhilesh is a good boy but never said he is a good CM,” party spokesman RPN Singh said.