Politicians have their own way of sending messages. Sharing or not sharing the dais in public is one of them. Behind every handshake and hug there is a hidden reason.
So, when Samajwadi Party national president Mulayam Singh Yadav decided to keep away from Janata Parivar’s rally in Bihar on Sunday, he had sent a subtle message of not having any truck with any group that allies with the Congress. His politics has always been anti-Congress and anti-BJP notwithstanding his support to the UPA government in the past.
Three days later he withdrew from the Janata Parivar-- a formation of which he was the architect -- protesting against a poor share of seats. With this, the six-party Janata Parivar that was formed to take on the resurgent BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections stands all but demolished. It will not impact his own political health as he has little stake in the neighbouring state.
Read: Mulayam's SP pulls out of 'grand alliance', to fight Bihar polls alone
The fact is that Mulayam has always shied away from sharing the dais with the Gandhis despite their give-and-take relationship in elections. A senior leader who spent his political life in SP before moving to Congress said, “I don’t remember when they addressed a joint rally though they meet often.”
Why? “Perhaps because SP’s entire politics is founded on Lohia’s anti-Congressism.”
Mulayam was quite upset when Nitish Kumar started cultivating Congress after snapping ties with the BJP. Lalu has always enjoyed a close rapport with the Gandhis.
Though there are few takers in the political circles for the contention that ‘Mulayam grew in anti-Congress boots’, mutual mistrust between the two parties seems to be the other cogent reason behind their decision to stay away from each other, at least publicly.
The mistrust between the two parties dates back to the 1990s when Mulayam had stumped the Congress by going for a mid-term poll even as late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was telling party veteran Narain Dutt Tiwari to call on governor Satya Narain Reddy and withdraw support to his government.
By the time Tiwari flew in, Mulayam had already met the governor in the wee hours of the morning and dissolved the assembly to continue as caretaker chief minister till the elections.
The Congress, on the other hand, has not as yet forgotten the humiliation its president Sonia Gandhi had to suffer by his last-minute volte face on extending his support in 1999. They describe his slippery politics as the main reason for their party high command’s coldness towards him.
The third obvious reason could be his desperation to hold on to Uttar Pradesh, which Congress desires to recapture. Sharing the dais with the Gandhis could create confusion in the voter’s mind.
Read: Battleground Bihar: How Modi and Nitish are squaring up
Chronicling Bihar’s journey from Lalu to Nitish