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Amar Chitra Katha

Are we seeing the decline and fall of Amar Singh and his brand of politics? Rajdeep Sardesai finds out.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2006 01:06 IST

You cannot help feeling a little sorry for Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh as he scurries from city to city, from one TV channel to another crying hoarse that his phone is being tapped.

Gone is the ready wit, the easy swagger and the broad grin that is part of the Amar Singh persona. Sure, the combativeness hasn't entirely disappeared, but somehow one senses the flamboyance that made Singh Uttar Pradesh’s first Page 3 neta has been replaced by a more subdued politician, aware that time may be running out for him.

Contrast the Amar Singh of today with the man who dreamt of being at the heart of Indian politics only 20 months ago. We were following him on the election trail in the 2004 general elections when we asked him about the role of the Samajwadi Party in the post-election scenario. Eyes twinkling with anticipation, he gave a toothy grin, "Boss, just wait till the counting day. Then, you will know who is the kingmaker!"

Today, Amar Singh resembles a tragic caricature of what he had hoped to be: less a kingmaker, more a Don Quixote-like figure tilting at the windmills, real and imaginary.

Ironically, counting day in 2004 went perfectly according to plan. The Samajwadi Party won a remarkable 40 seats in the Lok Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. In a fractured Parliament, those seats should have been enough for Singh and his ‘real boss’, Mulayam Singh Yadav, to call the shots.

But a bit like the groom who arrives with the baaraat only to find the bride missing, Singh found that the big prize on the journey from Lucknow to Delhi was suddenly hijacked by the Congress. The very Congress whose leader Sonia Gandhi had been dismissed by the Samajwadi Party as a ‘videshi mahila’ who was not fit to be prime minister of the country. Actually, it wasn’t so much the Congress who spoilt Amar Singh’s party as much as the comrades from the Left.

The Left’s spectacular performance in states like Kerala and West Bengal meant that the Congress did not need to ride on the Mulayam-Amar Singh bandwagon. The final ‘insult’? Amar Singh being snubbed at a dinner organised for the new allies of the Congress.

Like so many politicians, Singh can live with both celebration and criticism. What he cannot endure is rank indifference. Twenty months later, Amar Singh is still having to come to terms with the reality of having lost out in the Delhi durbar, and now being the target of a hostile state machinery.

In the isolation of Amar Singh though, there is a bigger lesson for new age politicians. In many ways, Amar Singh typifies the ‘corporatisation’ of the contemporary politician: netas who climb up the political ladder more by networking and monetary clout and less through mass appeal and charisma.