Joining hands with his old rival and former BJP UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh may prove to be the greatest political mistake of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. He is now drawing on his immense experience to tide over a crisis that is brewing among his Muslim supporters. Mulayam, who has a vast Muslim constituency that has seen him emerge as a top leader in UP, now actually finds it difficult to explain why it was so important doing political business with the man during whose chief ministership the Babri Masjid was demolished.
Kalyan Singh has, on his part, expressed regret over the demolition. But Muslims continue to view him with great suspicion and clearly don’t endorse this ‘unholy alliance’ with the SP. There has been a virtual revolt within the SP, although senior leaders are trying to downplay the implications of this tie-up aimed at bolstering the party’s chances in areas where Kalyan Singh’s Lodh Rajput community wields considerable influence.
The problem with this tie-up is that it is based on political expediency and has no ideological basis. At the core of this relationship is a common hatred for BSP chief Mayawati who, in fact, finds herself better placed than before this tie-up took place. Kalyan Singh’s differences within the BJP are also very superficial and pertain to his overwhelming desire to get his son elected to Parliament.
In his ‘Dhrishtrashtra-style’ politics, Kalyan wanted the BJP to deny the Bullandshahr ticket to the sitting MP, Ashok Pradhan. When his request was not conceded, he turned against his party’s central leadership. Kalyan has crossed swords with the leadership in the past too and sees no future for himself as long as Rajnath Singh continues to be the party chief.
What, however, is surprising is why an astute person like Mulayam Yadav agreed to a tie-up with Kalyan Singh. Mulayam is aware that one of the reasons for his humiliating defeat in the assembly elections was because of dealings with the BJP — especially with the then Speaker Kesrinath Tripathi — were looked at with much suspicion. Mayawati’s supporters always thought that the BJP was helping Mulayam to remain in power to prevent her from staking her claim. The appointment of Rajnath Singh about three years ago as BJP party chief also came soon after a meeting between Mulayam and RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan that led to all kinds of speculation.
Rightly or wrongly, it was perceived that the SP and the BJP had a secret understanding. This obviously hurt Mulayam as Mayawati became the people’s choice, offering the best alternative to the SP in UP. Mayawati is no political greenhorn and has since consolidated her position. She is bound to cash in on the negative implications of this tie-up. She may even end up bagging more than half of the total seats in UP.
Mulayam’s problems have actually started afresh. The Congress, which was being bullied into submission by the SP, is now also having second thoughts about an alliance with the SP. Politics does strange things and as things stand today, Mulayam needs the Congress more than the Congress needs him. UP-watchers feel that with or without Mulayam, the Congress was going to get a certain number of seats. So when there were not going to be any benefits accrued by this alliance, what was the point in a tie-up? In any case, Congress had led the UPA, whose main binding factor was the fight against communalism. Now that Mulayam is siding with the man whose role in the Babri Masjid demolition is no secret, any kind of arrangement will make the Congress position weak.
The Congress had played its initial cards wrong by putting everything in Mulayam’s basket at the cost of inviting renewed animosity from Mayawati. But with Rahul Gandhi showing more interest in UP affairs, the position vis-à-vis Mulayam can be reviewed. Or the Congress can get into a better bargaining position to get more seats out of this alliance.
But in any case, it is Mayawati who will be giving every other party in UP a run for their money. Except in Amethi and Rae Bareilly where the Congress seems invincible, and in some SP citadels, Mayawati can provide many upsets during the most fiercely contested Lok Sabha polls in UP with the BJP ending up with a few crumbs. As things stand today, it is advantage Mayawati all the way. The others are fighting only for the second, third and fourth positions. Between us.