What do Vishwanath Pratap Singh and Amitabh Bachchan have in common -- apart from the Allahabad and poetry connections, that is? Like the Angry Young Man who, after some years in the wilderness, successfully managed to transform himself into an embodiment of respect, Mr Singh is desperately seeking to reinvent himself as some sort of Big VP. If eyebrows were raised earlier this week when Mulayam Singh Yadav dropped by at the bash hosted by Ramvilas Paswan to celebrate the Mandal Messiah’s 75th birthday, they had reasons to be raised. Mr Singh has resuscitated the Jan Morcha, the forum he had founded in 1987 when he left the Congress, just in time for the UP assembly elections early next year. But this time round, with the help of Mr Paswan’s LJP, the CPI, the RSP, the Forward Bloc and other political bric-a-brac, Mr Singh is planning to take on the might of the Samajwadi Party.
That the man who invented ‘Bofors’ is getting chummy with the Congress is plain to see. It wouldn’t be a great exaggeration to state that his Jan Morcha: The Sequel is not so much a manifestation of that rumour called the Third Front but a front for the Congress. With the SP and the BSP walking away with the caste-baby, Mr Singh has been reduced to a social justice totem pole for some time. He figures that he’ll have one last shot at reclaiming his ‘parenthood’ before UP votes. But the real problem with Mr Singh is that no one -- least of all, the voters -- know what he stands for. The man who returned to politics after beating serious health problems is yet to be known for any particular gameplan, having leapfrogged from one cause to another -- whether it is rehabilitation of jhuggi-jhopri oustees or concern for farmers. Getting a journalist to write his memoirs (ironically titled Manzil Se Zyada Safar, or The Journey More Than the Destination) and to let out tidbits about other political leaders (Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanting to float a party after being disappointed with the BJP, Sonia Gandhi turning down Prime Ministership because of security reasons, etc) do not a political manifesto make. Perhaps Mr Singh’s future lies in quiet contemplation or in writing poetry or in painting. The rough and tumble of post-Mandal UP politics circa 2007 may leave him seriously hankering for a Third Front.