Mulayam Singh Yadav’s double game — bullying the government for its controversial economic measures but at the same time allowing it to survive on the plea of fighting communal forces — may come a cropper. Coming as it does just a few months after his bizarre turnaround during the presidential elections, this has further confirmed Yadav’s image as an untrustworthy politician. His blow cold, blow hot approach to the UPA 2 regime could also place him in a dilemma in the coming months if the prime minister and finance minister persist with their contentious reforms agenda. Having raised such a fuss on the streets about the diesel price hike and FDI in retail, continuing support despite such a resounding snub could turn him into an object of ridicule. On the other hand, withdrawing support at a later date may well be from a position of weakness.
Interestingly, there is an uncanny resemblance with the current bid to play a larger-than-life role on the national stage by the SP patriarch to those by his chief political rival Mayawati a little over four years ago. Much like the BSP supremo did during the nuclear deal political crisis in 2008, Yadav today is displaying the same overweening prime ministerial ambition in the wake of a decisive electoral victory in UP. He appears to have learnt no lessons from the damage his opponent did to herself by letting visions of ascending the Delhi throne divert her from grassroots realities in her home state.
Four years ago with UPA 1 tottering after the Left Front withdrew support over the Indo-US nuclear deal, Mayawati had sensed an opportunity to grasp her dream of being prime minister. Flying high from her historic victory in the UP state elections the year before, she had launched an all-out onslaught to topple the government. Much to the Dalit empress’s delight, some Left Front leaders, along with a few from other parties, had virtually endorsed her as the leader of an emerging Third Front that would form the next government.
Unfortunately for Mayawati, although she did give the UPA 1 regime a real scare, her plan misfired. The government’s wheeler-dealers armed with vast financial resources managed to buy up stragglers mostly in the BJP and NDA to make up the numbers in the Lok Sabha and sailed through the confidence vote. The collapse of the Opposition onslaught in the Lok Sabha against the Congress-led ruling coalition had also put paid to Mayawati’s hopes of becoming a Third Front-backed PM.
She never recovered from this setback. Indeed, her thwarted obsession to be the PM led her to neglect the more vital task of governing UP and she paid for this dearly with her party’s disappointing performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. This, in turn, affected her political stature in the state and a few years later Mayawati crashed to an ignominious defeat in the assembly polls.
History has a strange way of repeating itself and this is particularly true for the two main political protagonists of UP — Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. Six months ago, he, helped by son Akhilesh, had virtually replicated his rival’s electoral victory in 2007 by garnering upper caste votes to sweep the polls. But ever since this remarkable comeback, the SP veteran appears to have also chosen the same path of self-destruction as the BSP supremo.
His over-eagerness to push a personal political agenda climbing on the backs of assorted Left Front leaders will not go down well in UP where the government run by his son has run into difficulties mostly over the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. It has become clear that the young CM needs his experienced father’s help to control wayward elements in his party and cope with tough administrative challenges.
However, by his antics during the current political crisis and those a few months ago during the presidential elections, Yadav has plainly indicated that his heart is far more in pushing his prime ministerial dream than providing good governance in his home bastion. Two vital constituents of the formidable vote block that swept the SP into power in this year’s assembly polls — Brahmins and Muslims — will not be happy with this attitude. Worried at the rapid breakdown of law and order, Brahmins have already started lamenting their ouster of the far tougher Mayawati administration. Similarly, Muslims who had been protected by the BSP supremo even when she ran the state government in alliance with the BJP are upset with six communal riots in as many months since the SP came back to power.
By his political grandstanding in New Delhi, even as his support base in UP gets corroded, Yadav may lose far more concrete support than gain any illusory national stature as a potential PM. Interestingly, during the 2009 Lok Sabha campaign in UP, a common complaint against Mayawati among Brahmins and even a section of Dalits was that she was far too obsessed with becoming the prime minister to care about her home state.
Meanwhile, by choosing to remain out of the limelight while expressing her opposition to the recent unpopular economic measures, Mayawati is on a better wicket. As a matter of fact, with Yadav losing the plot, the Congress virtually buried in UP and the BJP showing no signs of revival, the BSP may well be on a comeback trail in the state. Indeed, Behenji could become the main beneficiary of the emerging political scenario as long as she does not indulge in star gazing, but keeps her eyes firmly on the ground. Ironically, she stands a far better chance to be a major mover and shaker after the next Lok Sabha polls, whenever it comes, if she does not try and jump the gun like last time.
Ajoy Bose is the author of Behenji — A political biography of Mayawati
The views expressed by the author are personal