What is common between Mulayam Singh Yadav (69) and Kalyan Singh (73)? A good deal from their dressing styles to the way they walk and talk.
The architects of backward caste politics in the state are envied for their poll management skills. They diligently do their homework. Mulayam relies on mental calculations, Kalyan on handy charts. Rarely has their arithmetic gone wrong.
Once again their caste calculations are at test in the 18 constituencies going to the polls in the fourth phase in West and West-Central Uttar Pradesh — also known as the Mulayam-Kalyan-Ajit Singh belt - dominated by Yadavs, Lodhs and Jats.
In the 2004 poll, of these 18 seats, Mulayam had won nine, the BJP and Congress three each, Ajit Singh's (69) Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) two, and 53-year-old Mayawati’s BSP just one. Kalyan was then with the BJP. This time the RLD is in alliance with the BJP, while Mulayam has embraced Kalyan. He brings with him his Babri Masjid demolition stigma.
Thus much will depend on the Muslim mood as they hold the veto right in many of the constituencies polling in this phase. Mayawati sees an opportunity to win their support, so does the Congress. But Muslim voters are silent.
Mulayam’s camp has maintained that his decision to shake hands with Kalyan Singh was a considered one. He is confident that, despite the Kalyan Singh link, Muslims will not dump him in seats where SP fights the BJP.
Instead bringing Kalyan into his fold will add the Lodh vote — the backward caste group to which Kalyan belongs — to his kitty. The Lodh vote matters in 11 of the 18 seats.