Hindi belt troika teams up to shore slipping vote banks (News Analysis)

April 3rd, 2009 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan By Sharat Pradhan
Lucknow, April 3 (IANS) Three of the Hindi heartbelt’s most influential politicians — Lalu Prasad, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan — teamed up here Friday to consolidate their core vote bank of Muslims and Yadavs and reach out to voters beyond their traditional turfs.

Between Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party, the three in the last Lok Sabha controlled 65 seats in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that together account for 134 seats. By coming together, the trio is hoping to increase the block by appealing to a common vote bank.

All three gain to benefit. While the RJD and the LJP have played a negligible role in Uttar Pradesh politics, the Samajwadi Party has also been unable to make a dent in Bihar and Jharkhand. In the 2004 elections, RJD had a 0.08 percent vote share in Uttar Pradesh and Paswan was a little better with a 0.28 percent vote share. Similarly, Samajwadi Party had only a two percent vote share in Bihar.

Lalu Prasad and Paswan were invited to Mulayam Singh’s land for the historic meeting because of the visibly weakening support base of the Samajwadi Party.

Muslims have been upset since he shook hands with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rebel Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister when the Babri Masjid was demolished; Yadavs too seemed to be somewhat disillusioned because of the increasing dominance of general secretary Amar Singh, a Rajput, in the party.

“We lost as many as 43 assembly seats in the Yadav belt at the 2007 election. Sure enough, that was enough of a warning to reconsolidate the Yadav vote,” said a Samajwadi Party insider, adding that Mulayam Singh would also be travelling to Bihar soon to campaign for the RJD.

It was Mulayam Singh’s initial gameplan to build a larger backward axis that led him to Kalyan Singh, widely perceived as the Babri demolition man. He justified it by emphasising that this would weaken the BJP, but realisation soon dawned that the new found bonhomie could cost alienate the Muslims.

His Man Friday Amar Singh was understood to have then roped in Lalu Prasad. The idea was to give the Mulayam-Lalu unity such hype that it would overshadow the Mulayam-Kalyan bonhomie and revive bonds within the Yadav community.

According to party insiders, a joint rally had been proposed initially. But this was postponed at Lalu Prasad’s instance because he thought it would be better to first test the waters. It was therefore given the shape of a formal meeting to be followed by a joint press conference by the two Yadav chieftains and Paswan.

At the press conference, also attended by Amar Singh and the Samajwadi Party’s new general secretary Sanjay Dutt, the trio vowed to be together even after the elections.

While criticising the Congress, with which the LJP and RJD have fallen out over seat sharing in Bihar and Jharkhand, for its “second grade leaders”, Lalu Prasad said: “However, we are still with the UPA, and Manmohan Singh is our prime ministerial candidate.”

The Samajwadi Party has, however, had an antagonistic relationship with the Congress for some time. Whether that impinges on the new found equation with Paswan and LJP is yet to be seen.

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