Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday utilised the combined Opposition’s Bharat Bandh call to further his twin objectives of making his support for the UPA government conditional and raising the bogey of a third front yet again.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, who announced withdrawal of support to the UPA on Tuesday in protest against the government’s reform measures (FDI in retail business, diesel price hike and capping of subsidised cooking gas cylinders), stayed away from the agitation, but remained steadfast in her decision.
"We have already taken a collective decision. Our ministers will submit their resignation…We have also sought an appointment with the President tomorrow, if he gives time," she said.
The government, meanwhile, remained unfazed by the nationwide strike call, which saw even its own ally the DMK and outside supporters the SP and JD(S) join the opposition action against the latest set of economic reforms.
"We had enough friends yesterday, we have enough friends today. So, I don't think why you should doubt our stability," finance minister P Chidambaram said. Yadav, who was earlier expected to be in Lucknow, made it a point to be seen in the company of Left parties at the capital's Jantar Mantar, to send out a signal to the Congress that his support should not be taken for granted.
"I have said this several times that we are supporting the government only to stop communal forces (from coming to power). But we will not tolerate price rise," he said, flanked by senior Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury and AB Bardhan.
On whether his sharing the stage with the eight non-Congress non-BJP parties would lead to emergence of a third front, Yadav said: "What will be a bigger example than this?...The government has been coming out with policies after policies that adversely affect people of this country."
Sources in the Congress Party, however, did not attach much significance to Yadav's third front statement, which they termed as a pressure tactic from the "master bargainer".
Karat prodded Yadav to take charge of the situation. "Among our eight parties he should take the initiative, both inside and outside Parliament," he said.
Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who met Yadav in the evening, told HT: "He (Mulayam) is a tall statesman and is firm in opposing the anti-people policies of the UPA government."