Debating India

Inside the maze that is Mulayam’s mind


Thursday 29 April 2004, by DESHPANDE*Rajiv

NEW DELHI: Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav has never fought shy of a good fight. For the Yadav from Safai, who began his career as a school teacher, the smell of a political confrontation never fails to bring out the pugilist in him.

By common reckoning, the UP chief minister is in the middle of the ’dangal’ (wrestling match) of his life.

After returning to power in August, 2003 as CM for the third time, Mulayam could have hardly imagined that he would be poised to take centrestage in a contest of far-reaching implications, not just for himself, but for national politics.

It remains to be seen whether NDA will actually under-perform to the extent that some exit polls suggest.

But what Mulayam Singh’s mind must be engaged, even as he campaigns frantically, is the commonly-held belief that he could be the king-maker in the 14th Lok Sabha.

But the shrewd politico that he is, popular billing won’t satisfy him. He will weight the real pros and cons. Can he really be the king-maker? Or the king perhaps?

He would be assessing all options. And, paradoxically, even though his SP is seen to be going decently, most of the post-poll scenarios would not fill him exactly with joy.

For a man whose political cornerstone has been opposition to BJP, Mulayam may not necessarily hope the NDA would fall short of majority. He would remember that in 1998, another politician, also of the Third Front family, had to make a difficult choice.

TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu opted to support the NDA, driven by the logic of his anti-Congress politics: Come what may he would not support his main political adversary.

Mulayam’s choice is even more daunting. In 1999, he resolutely resisted the pressure of ’secular’ parties and refused to support Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s bid for prime ministership.

That decision not to affix his signature to the 10 Janpath’s roster saw his anti-BJP credentials being savaged.

This time around, if he is forced to choose between Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi and plumps for the NDA, the cost would be dearer.

As it is, the SP’s Muslim constituency seems suspicious that he has been a tad too cosy with BJP. A deal with the NDA will confirm their worst fears.

The situation could be even worse if the SP is constrained to support the NDA from the outside without enjoying any of the benefits of power. In an interview to a weekly, Mulayam Singh gave an indication of just about how encircled he was feeling.

See online : The Times of India


in The Times of India, Thursday, April 29, 2004.

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