Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati is not a threat to the UPA. She is, in the given scenario, its best safeguard against Mulayam Singh Yadav's shenanigans driven by his prime ministerial ambitions.
The SP chief cannot suit his convenience to force elections. For, the timing and the political ambience, which helps Mulayam, wouldn't help his BSP counterpart who has the requisite numbers in the Lok Sabha to keep the UPA afloat even after his exit.
In short, from the Congress's standpoint, the BSP cancels out the SP's potential nuisance value for the ruling coalition. Mayawati will want to go to the polls when anti-incumbency is high against Akhilesh Yadav in UP.
In contrast, Akhilesh's success as CM is a prerequisite for Mulayam to raise his tally of 22 in the state that sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha.
On the face of it, the SP leader's presence at the Opposition-sponsored Bharat Bandh against the UPA's policies seemed anachronistic, what with his continued support for the combine under attack.
But he did so with an eye on UP where his claims to the PM's slot could help him overcome the disadvantage of being a regional leader.
The electorate conventionally reverses its assembly poll preferences to back national parties over regional forces in the Lok Sabha polls. Conscious of the handicap vis-à-vis the Congress and the BJP, Mulayam is keen to build a national persona in the run-up to the elections.
The Third Front idea he floated with the Left and the TDP could be a non-starter. But he needs it direly to make his prime ministerial pitch credible on his home turf.
Mulayam's tactics aren't obviously lost on Mayawati who cannot let the SP grow at her party's expense. She therefore will continue backing the UPA to dilute the clout Mulayam could've wielded to get special favours for son Akhilesh as Manmohan Singh's sole life-line.
The UPA's advantage from this tug-of-war will be proportional to its ability to subtly play one against the other. Their interests have to be so juxtaposed that they end up containing each other.
Can the UPA do it? For how long?