Pals Mulayam neither needs nor wants
The NDA's constant talk of proximity to Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav seems a ploy to help the BJP make inroads into the SP's support base, particularly Muslims and upper castes.
First it was Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee who spoke of the SP's proximity to the BJP in ideological matters, and then NDA convener George Fernandes said he wanted the SP in the coalition.
Mulayam, of course, does not appreciate the "proximity" talk of NDA leaders when he has to get as many of his candidates to win the elections by fending off the BJP's challenge.
In Lucknow, taking strong exception to Vajpayee and Fernandes' comments, SP general secretary Amar Singh said NDA leaders were making such statements as they were "nervous and their defeat is certain".
Terming the statements by Vajpayee and Fernandes as a "well-thought out strategy", Singh said they were aimed at creating confusion among the minorities.
"Though Mulayam Singh Yadav and Fernandes have been associated with socialist thinker Ram Manohar Lohia, unlike Fernandes, we have never compromised with principles for power," Singh said.
Referring to Fernandes' reported statement that Mulayam was ideologically close to him, Singh said: "We did not abandon our path for the sake of power."
"These leaders have changed their ideologies frequently to suit their political interest which is not a healthy sign for democracy," he said referring to Fernandes, Sharad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, Jayalalitha and O.P. Chautala.
BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu also dismissed reports that the BJP had sent feelers to Mulayam.
Talking to newsmen in Thiruvananthapuram, Venkaiah wondered how the party could align with one of its main opponents. "The BJP is comfortable with its present allies throughout the country. And in UP we are in a direct fight with the SP," Naidu said.
When asked about Fernandes' statement, Venkaiah said: "When you put the same question to Fernandes every day he might have said in a lighter vein that he wouldn't mind the same."
BJP leaders had been saying that Mulayam and they saw eye-to-eye only on one issue: shutting out the Congress.
But with the BJP contesting as many as 77 seats in UP, its leaders find the real challenge to their candidates in most places is either the SP or the BSP.
BJP strategists said they were counting on a surge for Vajpayee which would enable the party to win as many as 30 seats.
As a senior BJP leader said, "A surge for Vajpayee will ensure that voters in UP defy all projections and back the BJP."
According to him, the BJP did not see any challenge from the Congress in states where the fight was direct. Only in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu where the Congress was counting on its allies, did the BJP have hurdles.
(with bureau reports)