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Mulayam Singh Yadav, the canny king of twists and turns, is now trying to swim to the surface – without making any waves, of course – after the drubbing his party received in the last Lok Sabha polls.
Political circles in Uttar Pradesh, especially those of his rivals, have started trying to outguess Yadav’s next steps. For, his recent moves made little sense to them.
Take, for example, his decision to retain Azamgarh and vacate the Mainpuri parliamentary seat, despite notching up a huge margin there against the BJP – 595,918 against 231252 – in Mainpuri in 2014.
Observers believe that Yadav is again playing bluff to confuse the voter and his rivals. But with Amit Shah arriving on the scene with his bag of poll tricks, retaining Mainpuri has become a big challenge for him.
Under no circumstances can Yadav afford to lose Mainpuri where he has already upset the voters by deserting them for Azamgarh where he had won with a narrow margin and secondly, by fielding another family member.
So, the Yadav chieftain has taken a sudden turn by meeting twice his estranged aide, Amar Singh, who fought the last Lok Sabha election in alliance with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and lost.
Despite Yadav’s renewed bonhomie with Singh, his cousin Ram Gopal Yadav, a known Amar-baiter who had a role in his exit from the SP, ruled out the possibility of Amar Singh’s comeback.
And now, despite CM Akhilesh Yadav having cleared the air by calling the meetings “personal”, tongues are wagging. That’s round one for the Yadav chieftain in the fight for wiping out the memories of the poll disaster and creating a new buzz.
His meetings with Amar Singh and offering the olive branch to Ajit Singh have other implications too. Yadav’s immediate problem is the by-polls, which always favour the ruling party, but the tide is running against him. He is also concentrating on west UP.
While Ajit Singh may help him get Jat support in Noida, Saharanpur and Thakurdwara in west UP, Amar Singh can campaign in Mainpuri to bring back the Rajputs, who had supported the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.
In Mainpuri, 35% of the 12.3 lakh voters are Yadavs. The other dominant castes are the Shakya, Thakurs, Brahmins, SCs and Muslims. While the BJP is confident of the support of Brahmins, SCs and Shakyas, Yadav is left with Yadavs and Muslims, besides a section of Thakurs.
Much of this equation will, however, depend on the candidate the BJP decides on. If it fields a Yadav, the party will lose, as Mulayam Singh is the biggest Yadav icon. In the absence of the BSP, the SCs are likely to stay with the BJP.
In Saharanpur, speculations are rife that Congress leader Imran Masood – who came to limelight by badmouthing Narendra Modi – may soon switch over to the SP.
Many in Saharanpur believe that the recent Sikh-Muslim clash was engineered by local SP leaders – primarily Muslims – to stall Masood’s entry into the SP.
Also, by allowing him to join the party, Yadav will show Azam Khan, the SP’s most prominent Muslim face and opposed to Masood, his place.