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UP: Mulayam's departure is the only certainty
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | May 10, 2007 23:39 IST
Hours before a clear answer could be found to the million dollar question -- who would be the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh? -- it has become increasingly evident that Mulayam Singh Yadav is now out of the race.
While the poll results on Friday are expected to spring surprises for all and sundry, what is being widely believed with certainty is the sealed fate of the present chief minister, who is clearly on his way out.
Of the three big names -- Mulayam, Mayawati and Kalyan Singh -- respectively projected for the top job by the three key players -- Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Bharatiya Janata Party -- all pointers were leading to the possible installation of Mayawati as the next incumbent.
Exit polls may have indicated the possibility of a hung Assembly leading to President's rule in the state -- a situation wishfully perceived by all political parties -- other than Mayawati's BSP.
Clearly, while all other parties have resigned to the fate of a predictable hung House, BSP alone is sticking to its guns to maintain its claim of forming the next government in India's most populous state.
Running a single-handed campaign, sans celebrities, catchy advertisements, audio-visual displays or any other vote-pulling antic, Mayawati only concentrated on her new social engineering experiment of wooing the once "untouchable" Brahmins to act as a catalyst to reinforce her strong base of Dalits in a highly caste-ridden Uttar Pradesh.
Mulayam, who until a month back, used to be in high spirits proclaiming his return as a foregone conclusion, looks shaken after his own intelligence reports refused to give the ruling party anything beyond 70-75 seats in the 403-member House.
Perhaps Mulayam had gauged the "anti-incumbency" mood of the electorate shortly after the first round of the seven-phase month-long poll exercise, on April 7. And even on day one, he began to display the signs of a loser in the battlefield.
"Please vote me to power again otherwise Mayawati will send me to jail," was the desperate appeal to voters right in the beginning of the campaign. This turned even more fervent as it got closer to the end of the polls when Mulayam also went about pleading, "Even if my MLA has done a few wrongs, please do not punish me for that."
Those who have seen Mulayam through the years could not imagine the wrestler-turned-political fighter in a virtually begging mode.
"That is most unlike the Mulayam I have known for decades; he was always a fighter who could bounce back from the worst situation," quipped an old associate who has stood by him right from his early days in hometown Etawah.
What made it even more evident that he was on a shaky wicket was his intermittent outbursts against the Election Commission -- for all its strictness, that actually received loud appreciation from not only all other parties, but by the electorate at large.
Mulayam's oft repeated condemnation of the commission was also seen as a reflection of his frustration against his otherwise unbridled control over the election process in the past.
BJP has been showing lack of confidence from the very beginning. Despite flooding the state with the maximum number of high-profile campaigners, including widely known celebrities, they did not for once claim that it could form its government.
Assertions by its top leaders including stalwarts like Lal Kishenchand Advani and national president Rajnath Singh were always laced with observations that clearly reflected the party's lack of confidence.
"We will neither support anyone nor will we take anybody's support; we are prepared to sit in the opposition," were the echoing declarations made by them.
As for the Congress, its star campaigner Rahul Gandhi himself made no bones in admitting that his objective was to re-build the party base in Uttar Pradesh. "In my view, this is the beginning of a long drawn process," he told a press conference towards the fag end of the campaign in Gorakhpur.
"I am not concerned about how many seats we get or we don't get. I am concerned about the Congress party getting back to life in Uttar Pradesh," he had said .
While pollsters had given Mayawati a clear edge over others and had conceded the single largest party mantle to her BSP, none are ready to believe that her party's tally would go anywhere beyond 140-150, thereby keeping her far from the magic figure of 202.
However, Mayawati on her part exudes confidence that she will score a clear majority.
"BSP would form a government on its own," asserts Mayawati's close confidante and party national general secretary Satish Chandra Misra, the architect of her new social engineering.
Another BSP source told this scribe on the condition of anonymity, "Even if we fall short of the magic figure it would only be by a small margin which would be filled by a few independents; we will not require any political party's support."