Maya and Mulayam: Chess Game 2014

Are they in opposition or with the ruling party? So why are they backing a weak Congress regime which has failed so miserably in UP?

Sanjay Kapoor Delhi

It was a hot and gusty June afternoon of 1995 when I landed inLucknow. After reaching my destination I was told that there was high drama unfolding in the nearby State Guest House. On reaching the guest house, I found armed police stopping hordes of crowds trying to figure out what is happening on one of the floors of the State Guest House where Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati was residing. In the absence of mobile phones, there was no authoritative version of what was happening inside except vague suggestions that Mayawati was locked in a room after people close to Samajwadi Party (SP) threatened her with physical harm if she withdrew support from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government. At that time, BSP was supporting the SP government.

Subsequently, I visited Mulayam Singh Yadav’s residence and found his place bristling with tension. Mulayam was sitting withBihar’s toughie, Pappu Yadav, who was asking the troubled SP leader for instructions to sort out the BSP. Mulayam knew the situation had gone beyond muscle power. Needless to say, the SP government fell and after a new tie-up, Mayawati was sworn in as the chief minister of UP.

The guest house episode is a watershed event in BSP and Mayawati’s life. It has defined her politics as well as that of UP. So upset has been Mayawati with Mulayam after this incident that in the history of BSP penned by her titled “Mere sangharshmay jivan evam bahujan movement ka safarnama” she devotes seven chapters to him. Some of them are titled as “Mulayam jis thali mein khata hai, usi mein chhed karta hai' and 'Mulayam ki makkari, sankirna pravrati'.

Their animosity after 1995 also deepened the differences between their respective support bases: Mulayam’s constituency of Yadavs and other intermediate castes versus the Dalits of Mayawati. A great social experiment conceived in 1995 between the two lower castes in the caste hierarchy that would have questioned the hegemony of the upper caste, therefore, collapsed with this face-off between Mulayam and Mayawati. Ever since 1995, it has been easier to predict the conduct of these two leaders: they seldom go in the same direction.

Therefore, when both the SP and BSP decided to walk out of Parliament on the issue of the government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, and thereby helping the Congress-led UPA government to defeat BJP’s motion against it, it seemed quite unusual. Interestingly, both seemed to be following the same script of opposing the FDI decision and walking out by making some rhetorical angry noises. Expectedly, BSP displayed better reflexes and left the Lok Sabha earlier than SP, but it did not really change the circumstances in Parliament.

BJP, which also did not seem very keen to bring down the government except embarrassing it, exhorted Mulayam to follow the path of socialist leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan and their ideological opposition to foreign capital and thereby bring down the government. Mulayam (or Mayawati) wanted to be in the opposition without actually trying to bring down the government. The BSP leader made it clear that they do not want to bring down the UPA government lest it allows the return of communal forces.

Mayawati seemed to have stolen the language and vocabulary of her arch enemy, Mulayam. She also seemed to make light of the fact that she had taken support of the BJP thrice to come to power, without being, too, concerned with their hardline communalism or attacks on minority communities. In fact, she is known to have even backed Narendra Modi once upon a time.

BJP linked the support that the two UP parties extended to Congress to the pressure from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on, both, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. Both these leaders are under the investigation of CBI on different provisions under Prevention of Corruption Act. There have been suggestions that both the leaders are buying their peace from the central government by supporting them on key issues as they would not like the fate of Kanimozhi to visit them. Daughter of DMK leader, Karunanidhi, Kanimozi had to spend many months inDelhi’s Tihar Jail as the judges of the trial court did not see any merit in her early release. Both these leaders, sources suggest, understand that the current anti-politician, and anti-corruption mood is also strongly visible within the courts and public opinion would not permit the courts to show leniency towards them.

While there may be some merit in looking for safety from CBI, there is ample political logic, too, in both the regional parties in not supporting the BJP motion and also slamming it for its communalism. Over the last one year they have realised that the real challenge is coming from the BJP in the forthcoming Parliament elections in 2014 and any identification with them would drive away the support from the minority community.

Mayawati, whose regime provided ample security to the minorities during the time she was in power, is now being remembered fondly as Uttar Pradesh reels under a spate of communal riots across the state. BSP’s calculation is that she would be able to win substantial number of seats from UP if she can add some percentage of minority votes to her Dalit support base. Although she lost in the assembly elections in early 2012, she surprised everyone with her high vote percentage. Mayawati, therefore, would not like to hurt her political chances by endorsing BJP‘s superficial opposition to FDI in retail.

Mulayam Singh Yadav is also working on similar calculations. Although his SP government led by his son, Akhilesh, has failed to quell the communal riots that are sweeping in eight towns of UP, as also the inevitable rise in goondaism, they still bank heavily on the minority support base. In the last assembly elections, the inability of the Congress to garner much support from Muslims allowed the SP to win such a huge majority. They, too, hope that Congress would continue to get weaker allowing them to translate their assembly win into a bigger victory in 2014 and thus helping Mulayam Singh Yadav, the stocky wrestler from Etawah, to fulfil his ambition of becoming the Prime Minister of India. 

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