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Cautious Congress not keen on tie-up with Mulayam

Nistula Hebbar in New Delhi | May 15, 2004 12:45 IST

The Samajwadi Party's cat-and-mouse game with regard to joining the Congress-led coalition government seems to have more to do with the Congress' own reservations about accepting help from the SP than any road block that Messers Maulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh might throw up.

According to sources within the Congress, the party is aiming at a revival of its electoral fortunes in Uttar Pradesh. This will involve large scale wooing of Muslims, who are right now firmly behind the SP.
"Our long term political fortunes could be seriously endangered if we tie up with the SP,'' said a senior Congress leader.

In 1999 the Congress, abetted by Rashtrapati Bhavan, made an abortive bid to form the government on the basis of a verbal assurance of support from the Samajwadi Party. But the SP dumped the Congress at the last minute. This is something that still rankles within the party.

"However, that's a minor issue," said the Congress leader, who seemed more concerned with recapturing the Hindi heartland.

With 36 MPs elected to the 14th Lok Sabha on the basis of Yadav and Muslim votes, the SP's vote bank is a constant reminder of the Congress' glory days when it ruled the state on the basis of the same combination.

The SP, meanwhile, has a minority government in place in Uttar Pradesh that is supported by the BJP. Right after the electoral tide turned in favour of the Congress, the SP's archrival, the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, declared unconditional support to a Congress-led alliance.

The SP now fears that a Congress-led government at the Centre might destabilise its state government. "We are not prepared for assembly polls at the moment," said a senior SP leader.

With 36 MPs and nowhere to go, the SP is a victim of its own success. Before the results, they thought they would in a position to dictate terms; now they realise the Congress does not need them.

This explains the party's newfound love for the Left parties after their serious disagreements over the Presidential elections two years ago. They hope to leverage the old fondness CPI (M) leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet has for Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Even as SP general secretary Amar Singh declared they would follow the Left's line on the Congress-led government, there is a nagging feeling this opportunistic love story will have a surprise ending.

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