Debating India


Samajwadi Party in election mode

Friday 14 September 2001

BY ANNOUNCING THE en masse resignation of his party’s MLAs in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party leader, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, seems to have found an issue to kickstart his campaign for the elections to the State Assembly. The timing of the decision - just a month before October 17, 2001 - provides the basis for the Samajwadi Party to ride on a moral high ground against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

The last Assembly elections were held in 1996 and the MLAs were declared elected on October 17 that year. However, the fractured nature of the verdict led to a situation where it took six more months for the House to be constituted. And this - that the term of the Assembly shall be counted from the date on which the House was constituted - is the basis on which the BJP, that came to power at that stage (in March 1997) after forging a post-poll arrangement with the BSP, has been clinging on to power in Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party had differed with this argument and Mr. Mulayam Singh had, for long, been holding to the position that it was amoral on the part of the BJP to prolong the term of the Assembly beyond October 2001. And in this sense, the en masse resignation was only expected.

The decision and the manner in which it was announced are indeed indications of the strategy Mr. Mulayam Singh had decided to adopt in the elections. The Samajwadi Party leader did not care to consult leaders of the BSP or the Congress before announcing the decision. This, indeed, is a clear signal that the Samajwadi Party is determined to go it alone in Uttar Pradesh. It may be true that the ground realities in Uttar Pradesh are such that the Congress is in no position to play a leading role in the consolidation of the anti-BJP forces. The signs of a Congress revival that were seen in the last general elections (when the party registered close to 10 per cent of the votes polled) seem to have disappeared. And the Congress stock seems to have plummeted to where it was prior to Ms. Sonia Gandhi’s arrival as party president. The same may be true of the BSP too. Despite having retained its share of votes (close to 20 per cent) the BSP is certainly not in a position to lead an anti-BJP campaign in the State. In this sense, neither Ms. Sonia Gandhi nor Mr. Kanshi Ram (and Ms. Mayawati for that matter) should have reservations about accepting Mr. Mulayam Singh’s leadership insofar as Uttar Pradesh is concerned. But then Mr. Mulayam Singh would have strengthened his own position if only he had shown the maturity to be seen as forging as broad a platform against the ruling BJP and in this sense made an attempt to take the Congress and the BSP along at this stage.

Be that as it may, the response from the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh, to the developments is clearly inexplicable. While there may be some substance in the technical interpretation of the Constitutional provision (that the term of the House shall be taken only from the date of its constitution) it is far too simple to see the real reasons. The truth is that the BJP hopes to revive its fortunes by clinging on to power as long as it can and making full use of the Government to strengthen its appeal. That the party’s prospects are not as bad as they appeared to be in 1999 (when the BJP lost heavily in the Lok Sabha elections) is a fact. And this improvement seems to have been achieved by the party thanks to the return of such social groups as the upper caste Thakurs (after Mr. Rajnath Singh was made the Chief Minister) to its fold. The party’s strategy is to wait as long as possible in order to consolidate this process, even if it meant adopting brazen means. It is for this very reason that it will make immense political sense for the Congress and the BSP to adopt a strategy similar to that of the Samajwadi Party so that the BJP will stand exposed.

See online : The Hindu

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