Nothing soft about Mulayam

Smita PrakashBlame it on Spring fever, or old men in a hurry, or too long a period of stability. There is a rapid movement towards the formation of a Third Front, an alternative to the BJP and the Congress. It was in these very pages that this columnist had written last year of the expeditious coming together of regional satraps frustrated at waiting on the sidelines and not getting their due in Delhi.

Mulayam’s voters are the M+Y (Muslim and Yadav) combination. He, like many others in UP, has relied completely on the political concoction of caste and religion to stay on in power. Giddy with the landslide win in the UP assembly elections last year when Muslims and Yadavs voted en masse for the Samajwadi Party, Mulayam wants to take that one shot at power in Delhi, and for that he is even willing to join hands with Lal Krishna Advani who the Muslims of UP will not forgive for the Babri demolition.

It really is the cherry on the pie that Mulayam would talk of Advani as a consensus PM candidate. Here are two men so keen on being prime minister that they think their electorate and the rest of the country can’t see through their tricks and machinations. Reminds you of that song, Prem ki nagari ma kuch humaraa bhi haq hoibe ka.

In the running: Mulayam Singh Yadav is trying all permutations to make it to Race Course Road

Both these gentlemen are convinced that one or the other can emerge as a consensus candidate in the event of a Third Front backed by the BJP or a BJP-led government backed by Third Front constituents. There is no grand calculation that Mulayam has done to arrive at this conclusion. He is just flaying around trying all permutations and combinations in his last-ditch effort to make it to Race Course Road. One moment he praises Gujarat governance, another moment he points fingers at his son’s misgovernance in UP, he angers Left parties with his eulogies of Advani and he confuses the Congress with tongue-lashing at press conferences.

The wrestler of yore is trying every move that he knows to ensure that there is nobody in the ring other than him in Uttar Pradesh. And via Uttar Pradesh he wants to waltz his way to Raisina Hill. Since 1947 eight of our 14 PMs have been from UP. The state elects 80 MPs. If Mulayam can even get 40, he is a contender for the top job in the event of a fractured mandate. He plans on doing this by making the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party completely redundant in UP. By praising Advani, he is trying to stall any attempt by BJP to get Narendra Modi to contest from UP.

But Mulayam has bitten more than he can chew. BJP has got its battalion ready for 2014. It has introduced a number of regional leaders and sidelined Team Advani. But the game isn’t over as yet. The Rajnath Regiment will concentrate first on the Karnataka assembly elections before it takes on Mulayam.

All our politicians know that it is UP that holds the key. Besides the 80 members it sends to Lok Sabha it accounts for a seventh of India’s population. Foreign correspondents never fail to report that if UP were a country it would be the sixth most populous in the world You would think that Mulayam could concentrate on governing or at least assisting his son in governing. Dacoity, caste violence, rampant illiteracy, abject poverty is what stares at you in this state.

Despite having elected so many top-level politicians to New Delhi including Nehru, Shastri, Vajpayee and several Gandhis, 32 per cent of its 170 million population lives below poverty line. UP’s model of governance is nowhere near the one that Mulayam praises: Gujarat. Or even the one next door: Bihar.

Mulayam has been chief minister thrice, and now has installed his son as CM. He has the mandate to improve the condition of those who voted for him, his son and his party despite their pathetic track record. But no, dil maange more.

The months before general elections are bizarre to put it mildly. Everybody waits to see if there is a lehar, a word that defies translation. The jostling and jousting has just begun.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash

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