Twosome Lonesome

For Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, clearly, it’s not the time to disco

 


Pradeep Kapoor Lucknow

 


Local elections have set the mood for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls scheduled next year. Surprisingly, all major political parties seem to be happy with the outcome of the elections and their leaders are smiling. But is it all public posturing or are their panic buttons being pressed behind the smiles in the political corridors of Lucknow?

The results of local bodies, consisting of 12 Nagar Mahapalikas, 191 Nagar Palikas and 417 Nagar Panchayats, are an eye-opener in the multi-layered, hyper-polarised polity as that of UP’s. The results followed the predictable doublespeak: Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party (SP) discovered a ‘thumping defeat’, much to his surprise, cockily announced that the political atmosphere is in his favour. Thereby he quickly wrote a letter to the Election Commission seeking quick elections in February. The EC, however, has categorically stated that it would hold elections before May 2007 as per the rules.

Number two in the cabinet, SP secretary and brother of the chief minister, Shivpal Yadav, claimed that his party is happy with its performance and has increased its support base in urban areas. It may be mentioned that the SP won only one mayor post in Moradabad, and out of a total of 191 Nagar Palika Parishad seats, won only 81. The fact is the party lost in important districts such as Mainpuri, Sambhal and Kannauj, represented by Ram Gopal, the chief minister’s son Akhilesh Yadav and his nephew Dharmendra Yadav, respectively. These districts are considered strongholds of Mulayam Singh and his family, and the opposition has gone to town claiming that the Yadav chieftain is rapidly losing ground in his old turf. Besides, the Muslim-Yadav factor seems to be splitting and the SP seems rudderless.

The Lucknow results were a clear pointer that most Muslim votes went in favour of Congress candidate Manjur Ahmad, and SP candidate Madhu Gupta was pushed to the third position, even while BJP candidate Dinesh Sharma won by a narrow margin. Similarly, the results of Agra, Allahabad, Bareilly, Jhansi, Kanpur and other areas established the fact that there was a decisive electoral shift among Muslims from the SP to the Congress and other parties. NCP State President Ramesh Dixit endorses the view that the SP has lost its Muslim support base, which is transparently evident. Locals argue that several sections of Muslims have seen through the SP’s tacit alliance with the BJP over the years and are waiting for a chance to teach it a lesson. Dixit, for instance, blamed the SP for helping the BJP so that Congress candidates get defeated in a close race, as it happened in Lucknow.

CPI leader Atul Anjan believes that the SP displayed its partial hold in semi-urban and rural areas, but there has been a definite dent in its minority vote bank. “Eventually, there will be a direct fight between the SP and BSP,” he said. However, Jan Morcha president Raj Babbar was confident that wherever his highly successful Mukti Sangram Yatra passed, the SP candidates lost badly, even losing their deposit, “as there is a wave in UP against the goondaraj of the Mulayam regime and the terribly bad reputation of Amar Singh”. Are they Samajwadis or pro-capitalist opportunists, goes the opposition refrain.

Significantly, the SP is fast losing its coalition partners, too, even as an assortment of smaller parties, including the CPI and CPI-ML (Liberation) in the Jan Morcha alliance is hitting it hard in the rural and urban areas. Even the CPI (M) is reconsidering its alliance with the party, so discredited has the party become. Besides, Ajit Singh’s RLD is apparently planning to ditch Mulayam and join hands with the Congress, even while there is jubilation in the BJP camp, which picked up eight mayor posts and won overwhelmingly across the state. The rumour is that Mulayam helped the BJP; but the fact is the Afzal issue also consolidated the BJP’s ‘Muslim appeasement campaign’. The paradox is, this BJP communal trap itself might become a noose that can spell the decisive decline of SP in UP in the coming Assembly polls.