Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday stepped up the attack on the Congress for the second day saying it was neck-deep in scams and corruption and its reputation was tainted while his party spoke of difficulties in continuing support to the United Progressive Alliance government if its allies start deserting it.
Addressing Samajwadi Party's two-day national executive, he said his party would play a major role at the Centre after 2014 elections in which it hopes to get "enough seats" and no government could be formed without it.
He said, "So who will take the responsibility of saving the country and take it in the right direction? The Samajwadi Party has to come forward and take this responsibility."
Yadav, who on Tuesday made surprise comments that his party is in the Opposition and criticised the UPA government as directionless, said "the situation has come to such a pass that the Congress is getting mired in controversies and scams. "Every day a new scam unfolds. The reputation of the Congress has been tainted throughout the country due to the scams," he said.
Without naming any central minister, the SP supreme said, "Newspapers today reported that ministers on the first day of taking charge allocated coal blocks to their relatives." Explaining his party's responsibilities in "taking charge" at the Centre, he said the SP "should get enough seats" in the Lok Sabha election so that no government can be formed without it.
Later, his party spokesperson and senior leader Mohan Singh spoke of SP taking the initiative for forming a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front and withdrawing support to UPA government when "other UPA constituent parties will start leaving it".
The Congress reacted sharply to Yadav's attack on the government saying that he was on the dais at the UPA's third anniversary showing its report card proudly. Union Minister Kapil Sibal said the party hopes to rule the country for another 60 years like it did in the last 60 years.
"The Congress is mired in corruption and scams, but despite that we are supporting it because the communal forces are in a somewhat good position at present and we also don't want to force an early election as that would involve huge expenditure," Mohan Singh told the media.
Stating that the party leadership discussed the issue of forming a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front, Singh said, "The seeds have already been sown. Now the process will continue. We will hold consultations with the regional parties for forming a viable alternative."
Asked when the SP would withdraw support to the Congress-led government at the Centre, Singh said, "I will certainly let you know when the time to pull the plug will come."
Singh said, "When other UPA constituent parties will start leaving it, it will be difficult that it (Congress) will get the SP's support. He said that the SP would fight the Lok Sabha elections for seats in Uttar Pradesh alone and not ally with any party in the state.
Coming down heavily on the Congress, he said, "Congress leaders have looted the country through various scams, the latest being the coal block scam." "But if the Congress goes now, communal forces will gain," he said.
"In Gujarat, court orders have proved the involvement of the BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists in the Godhra riots. It has shown to the country the dreadful face of the BJP," he said adding that it is for these reasons that despite rampant corruption, the SP is supporting the Congress-led UPA II government.
Attacking Rahul Gandhi, the SP spokesperson said he has shown little to prove that he can lead politically and the country's future would be safe in his hands. "Since the last one and half to two years, the country has faced several challenges, so many issues have come up, but I have not heard any serious opinion on these from him (Rahul Gandhi)," Singh said.
"So, how can I say that the future of the country will remain safe in the hands of Rahul Gandhi," he said when asked on the role he would like for the Gandhi family scion. "Because he comes from such a big family, there is a feeling that Rahul Gandhi can tackle the issues facing the country," he said. "But if you ask me, I have not seen anything so far to suggest that."
"Under the Congress rule, country's financial development has come to a standstill and growth rate has come down to five per cent," Singh said. "Agricultural growth rate, which should be around four per cent for a healthy economy, is now down to two per cent."
"Our party feels that a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative should come up. It has not been finalised yet, but we are working on it," the senior SP leader said. "Now the BJP is relatively in a good position and the regional parties are not yet united," he said.
Asked whether the SP will talk to the Trinamool Congress, he said, "The Trinamool Congress is a prominent regional party, when we speak to the other regional parties, it is our compulsion to talk to them. But we are traditionally close to the Left. Comrades Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Jyoti Basu have helped us in our moments of crisis."
Asked whether Yadav was the party's prime ministerial candidate, he said, "If we declare a prime ministerial candidate then formation of Third Front will be difficult. But then who does not want to become the Prime minister?
Finding a leader will not be a difficult task. Let the Third Front take shape, then a decision on the prime ministerial candidate will be taken."