Backing Congress was Mulayam’s ‘best’ option

July 6th, 2008 - 1:15 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Darshan Desai
Lucknow, July 6 (IANS) Even from the point of view of Uttar Pradesh, there was no other alternative for Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav than to go with the Congress on the India-US nuclear deal. He is hemmed in by his archrival Chief Minister Mayawati’s increasing influence in the state from one side and pending court cases against him for alleged corruption (possessing disproportionate assets) from the other.

“Mulayam is on the defensive given his precarious position in Uttar Pradesh where he is trying to salvage his own vote base with the BSP’s (Bahujan Samaj Party) more inclusive politics,” A.K. Verma, head of department of politics in Kanpur’s Christ Church College, told IANS.

Mayawati has shown that her political graph in the state had remained intact after her impressive 2007 assembly victory. In one year of being in power, she has notched up as many as seven by-election victories to the state assembly and Lok Sabha seats representing a variety of caste equations.

By backing the Congress party at a crucial juncture, Mulayam has secured an important national ally “which won’t have been so had he gone with the Left”, Verma says.

Samajwadi Party circles here are all praise for Mulayam’s gamble for the same reason. “This is the best course which has been taken for the simple reason that going with the Left would have served us no purpose,” says a party leader, wishing anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the party’s behalf.

The government would then have fallen leaving the Samajwadi Party with no major alliance partner in national politics. “This is a situation we cannot afford this time when we are out of power in Uttar Pradesh,” the party leader told IANS.

The Left would have made capital in West Bengal, but not the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, he said.

The Samajwadi Party does not believe its Muslim vote, the second important constituent after OBC community Yadavs, would slip away by its support to the Congress for the nuclear deal.

The party’s strategy, which was being debated for sometime within, was clear in Mulayam throwing his weight behind the Congress. The party calculates that the Congress and the Samajwadi Party coming together would consolidate the Muslim vote.

“Add to this the fact that Laloo Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Mulayam, once staunch rivals, had already buried the hatchet,” said a Samajwadi Party leader aware of this strategy.

The Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the RJD, which have secular credentials, together would be an important message for the Muslims, he said.

“Just because Mayawati calls some religious leaders at her home in Lucknow and gives photo-ops to the media, doesn’t mean the Muslims would vote for her in droves for her opposition to the deal,” says acting state Samajwadi Party president and Mulayam’s brother, Shivpal Singh Yadav.

Prashant Kumar, veteran political writer who has been covering Uttar Pradesh for over three decades, sums up: “For an opportunistic politician like Mulayam, his backing the Congress was the best way out at this juncture.”

As for Muslims, it was only a belief that the tide would turn against the Samajwadi Party just because of the nuclear deal, he said. Kumar also runs a bookshop comprising largely a political collection.

“Mulayam, the astute politician that he is, will calculate it would be easy to inform the Muslims that Mayawati had shared the government with the BJP thrice and was a suspect,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh was no longer a committed vote to any party including the Samajwadi Party, with or without the nuclear deal.

Concurs Verma: “Eighteen percent Muslims voted for the BSP in the 2007 assembly elections.” This, in number, is 28 legislators and the highest chunk of Muslims with any single party in the state assembly.

This is perhaps why the Samajwadi Party believes being with the Congress would help the Muslim vote for the party.

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