Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Monday put up a stout defence for new friend Kalyan Singh, the rebel BJP leader who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister during the 1992 razing of the Babri Masjid, and said the association would not be a hurdle in the "prospective alliance" with the Congress.
Declaring that his association with Kalyan Singh was not a "political arrangement" but a "bond of friendship", Mulayam Singh said at a press conference: "The move is aimed at weakening the BJP; since fighting against communal forces has been my sworn motto, I will not hesitate to induct even bigger BJP leaders if they were to leave and express their desire to join me."
He denied that Muslim leaders in the Samajwadi Party were disillusioned with his equation with a leader identified as a "Hindutva mascot" and the man who presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid. He said: "Some of my colleagues had got confused simply because of misreporting by some newspapers."
Mulayam Singh, however, declined to comment on a recent statement of senior Muslim leader Azam Khan that he would not have anything to do with those responsible for the demolition of the Babri Mosque. "I am confident he will not remain misguided anymore and will understand the reality.
"Kalyan Singh's association will give us the support of the downtrodden farmers and other socially backward castes and all oppressed classes."
Mulayam Singh was also confident that his proximity with Kalyan Singh would not affect the talks with the Congress for an electoral alliance before the next Lok Sabha poll. "I am sure this will not pose any hurdle in our prospective alliance with the Congress."
Reading out excerpts from different papers, he sought to clarify: "Misquoting me, some newspapers went about projecting that I had given Kalyan Singh a clean chit in the Babri Mosque demolition case. That is far from the truth. All I had emphasised was that as then chief minister, it was Kalyan Singh's moral responsibility to save the mosque."
The 16th century mosque in Ayodhya was brought down by Hindu activists, who staked claim to the site saying that it was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The two former chief ministers have always been at loggerheads on the issue, but have apparently patched up their differences.
Said Mulayam Singh: "Sure enough it was in view of that moral responsibility that Kalyan Singh then stepped down from office."
When a journalist drew his attention to the fact that the Kalyan Singh government had been dismissed by New Delhi, he said: "But he had also resigned."