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|December 3, 1998||
Congress revival puts RLM's future in doubt
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
With Muslim voters returning to the Congress fold in the recent election in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the very survival of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha comprising Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal is now in doubt.
The Yadavs had combined to set up the RLM after Mulayam Singh broke off from the United Front, saying the UF had become redundant after Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government was sworn in.
But Mulayam Singh's claim that only the RLM, with its Muslim vote bank, could fight the communal forces led by the BJP has been shaken by the results of last week's election. Even in Agra East, in Mulayam Singh's home state Uttar Pradesh, the Congress was the Bharatiya Janata Party's closest rival, with the Samajwadi Party candidate losing his deposit.
This has shaken up Mulayam Singh who has since described the Congress victory as the result of "an anti-BJP wave, not a pro-Congress one".
But RJD politicians believe Mulayam Singh could have a difficult task preventing the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh going over to the Congress fold.
Newly appointed RJD spokesman Shahid Mazdoor told Rediff On The NeT that it could not be denied that Muslim votes had gone to the Congress in the recent election.
But he sought to differentiate between Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh and those in Bihar, underlining that the latter remain "unquestioningly loyal" to Laloo Yadav. He cited the RJD's retention of three seats in the bye-elections in Bihar, and the Communist Party of India-Marxist's victory in the fourth, Purnea, with the RJD's help, as proof.
Mazdoor acknowledged that the RLM's future hinges on Mulayam Singh's success in keeping his Muslim vote bank in Uttar Pradesh intact. And he admitted that this looks difficult now.
He also said that unlike the Samajwadi Party, the RJD would have no problem supporting the Congress if the political situation called for it.
Laloo Yadav has maintained good relations with the party ever since former Congress president Sitaram Kesri helped prop up Rabri Devi's government in Bihar during its trial of strength in the assembly. His steadfast refusal to criticise the Congress has not been lost on political observers.
The fact that Laloo Prasad is in jail in connection with the Rs 9.5 billion fodder scandal has made matters worse for Mulayam Singh, since he cannot even discuss the RLM's strategy now.
Former Union minister and RJD MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said it was too early to speculate on the RLM's fate. But he agreed that the Congress did appear to have regained lost ground.
Asked about the possibility of the RJD and the Congress coming together, he said, "Nobody is a permanent friend or enemy in politics."
That cannot have reassured Mulayam Singh Yadav.
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