Do not over read Mulayam’s presence at UPA dinner
Much has been made out of the presence of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s presence at the Prime Minister’s dinner to mark the third anniversary of UPA government’s second term. It is not accurate to read Mulayam’s attendance at the function as an indication of his joining the coalition. He supports the government from outside and there does not seem to be any pressing reason for him to join the UPA and therefore limit his options.
Mulayam himself tried to correct the impression gathered by over enthusiastic reporters and TV anchors that he was on his way to join the UPA and thereby bail the government out in the event Mamata banerjee and her Trinamool Congress decide to part company with the Congress and its other allies. Mulayam said that “they have given us respect’’. It was precisely that.
If Mulayam was on the dais and also on the High Table with the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, it was but natural. After his spectacular victory in the Uttar Pradesh election, the Samajwadi Superemo has enhanced his political status further. It would have been foolish to imagine that after coming to the function, he would have been made to sit in the audience and also on some other table other than that of the UPA chairperson. The UPA chairperson and the Prime Minister understood it very well that he had to be accorded a special status if he turned up given that his party heads the government in India’s largest state, he continues to give unconditional support to the UPA from outside and that his partnership could make all the difference if he hitches along with the coalition during the Presidential election. And why should he join a government whose negative perception is so very high. There is nothing more or less than that in his presence at yesterday’s event.
There is also another way of looking at Mulayam’s political agenda. His party got over 225 seats in the recently concluded UP assembly polls. He has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha at present. He will certainly be tempted to increase his tally to over 50 if circumstances permit him to do so. These circumstances can arise only if the present government falls. With the BJP, the principal opposition party being seen at times as the government’s saviour, Mulayam will wait for an eventuality when he can seize the initiative. This initiative could be his during or soon after the Presidential polls, which are likely to be a game changer in Indian politics.
This talk that he was going to bail the UPA in the event of Mamata pulling out is totally illogical. Even Mamata will want to be a major player at the Centre and may desire to increase her tally from 18 to over 30. Jayalalitha will certainly be tempted as well to marginalize the DMK further in Tamil Nadu. All of them in other words may benefit if early elections take place. And if that is the case, why would Mulayam offend Jayalalithaa or anybody else. All the regional players will need each other so that one of them can get elevated as the Prime Minister when the next election takes place. Why would any of the regional parties by their association with the Congress accrue its disadvantage.
The other dimension to the entire thing is that does Congress trust Mulayam. In 1999 he let Sonia Gandhi down when she quoted the figure of 272 as the number to denote her party’s support in Lok Sabha shortly after Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government was voted out of power by one vote. Hopefully the Congress leadership has not forgotten this slight for which it did try to humiliate the SP superemo during the tenure of the UPA-1.
The political scenario as it seems to be emerging is that Mulayam, Sharad Pawar, Jayalalitha and Mamata may end up on the same side just ahead of the next Parliamentary polls. This combination may also have some other regional satraps on board. In other words, let us not read too much in Mulayam’s presence. It was politics at its deceptive best. A lot more will follow.