From PM house to Mayawati, Siddiqui says ‘government should go’

July 19th, 2008 - 9:49 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Straight from a breakfast meeting at 7, Race Course Road Saturday, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to him and called him “Shahid saab”, Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Shahid Siddiqui drove to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s residence to declare his allegiance to her and say “this government should go”. The announcement that he was joining SP’s arch-rival Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) not only shocked other editors who were invited to the breakfast meeting but has even taken the prime minister by surprise, sources close to him say.

Siddiqui was invited to the interaction in his capacity as the editor of the Urdu paper Nai Duniya, the other hat he wears in addition to the political one as Rajya Sabha member, and till Saturday, the media-savvy spokesman of the Samajwadi Party.

His name was included in the list of editors invited to the one-and-a-half hour freewheeling interaction that the prime minister had Saturday morning, during which he largely talked about his record, his vision for the country and his failed quest to get all parties on board on the touchstone India-US civil nuclear deal.

Twice during the interaction, Manmohan Singh reached out to Siddiqui, addressing him as “Shahid saab”, and said if any party had a grouse about not being briefed over the nuclear deal it was “Shahid saab’s (Samajwadi) party.”

Siddiqui was also included in the prime minister’s press party to Japan and was given pride of place in the media section, right opposite the chair occupied by the prime minister when he meets reporters on board his special flight. He was seen as a bridge between the government and the Samajwadi Party with which the Congress had entered into a political alliance to save the government and the nuclear deal.

Those who know Siddiqui say they are not completely surprised at his flip-flop.

When US President George Bush came here in March 2006, Siddiqui was in the vanguard of Muslim protests against the visit. Hours later he took off his bright red cap, that caught the TV cameras’ attention during the demonstration before parliament’s main gate, and drove to attend the lunch in Bush’s honour.

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