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Of Mulayam & his Samajwadi politics

July 04, 2008 02:06 IST
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At last things are going right for Mulayam Singh Yadav. Former socialist, former defence minister, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister -- Yadav and his Samajwadi Party had been feeling seriously disempowered in the last few months after they lost power in UP and a government of the Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati came to power, over which SP had absolutely no leverage whatsoever.

The loss of power was all the more traumatic because in the not so distant past, Yadav had wielded so much of it. Just a few years ago, industrialist Subroto Rai Sahara had declared that housing projects launched by the Sahara group in 50 cities in Uttar Pradesh would transform lifestyles -- the kitchens he had promised middle class families would have had piped mineral water at the nominal cost of 10 or 20 paise a litre.

Today, the Mayawati government is demolishing the boundary walls of this construction as illegal. Amitabh Bachchan had underwritten this and other dreams that towns like Lucknow, Kanpur and Gorakhpur had been waiting to be shown. Adi Godrej (whom Yadav refers to periodically, as Adi Gopal, for reasons of linguistic convenience) and KV Kamath were happy to share the spotlight.

Nandan Nilekani was to have brought IT to UP, complete with a programme where an Office Assistant would have asked you in Hindi, if you needed assistance in writing a letter (Hindi is the official language of the UP legislative assembly and you cannot work in any other language without being censured).

But although in the UP assembly elections in 2007, the SP was unable to form a government and had to yield to BSP, its vote percentage in 2004 was 26.74 per cent but in 2007 was 26.07 per cent. So its vote share, it reckoned, was intact but the power associated with it wasn't.

Add to this the 'harassment' by the Mayawati government in UP and the Congress-led UPA government at the centre, most of its protagonists felt they were being hounded. In UP, Mulayam Singh Yadav's brother, Shivpal Singh Yadav, was proceeded against for scams in police recruitment.

At the Centre, the mills of the Income Tax Department ground slowly, but continued to grind exceeding small, including Amar Singh's friends and associates in its ambit.

It is hardly surprising that Mulayam Singh Yadav decided to jump ship when the Congress reached out for the SP's support following the Left denouncement of the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement.

It is the world's worst-kept secret that Yadav did the same when APJ Abdul Kalam was elected as President of India: He elected to side with the BJP, intervening to defeat the Left party's candidate. For this then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told him: Mulayam Singh ji, aap sachche rashtravadi hain (you are a true nationalist).

With such agility, it is not surprising that Yadav should display flexibility on economic policy as well. When out of government, the Samajwadi Party was singing songs of swadeshi.

Mulayam Singh Yadav's son, Akhilesh's, most memorable speech in the Lok Sabha was about why the government was only bothered about silicon chips and not about potato chips (ie agro processing, because in season, potatoes are sold at Rs 1.00 a kg in some parts of UP).

However, Amar Singh's dalliance with the Australian media industry to rejuvenate the domestic entertainment world, was the only foray the Samajwadi Party had taken into issues of FDI.

The party continues to oppose the blind entry of foreign money in India and supports swadeshi. It has strong views on agriculture. However, the domestic scene is divided between those who are pro-SP and those who are opposed to it.

Amar Singh has strong supporters in the corporate world but equally bitter critics. In a letter to the Prime Minister, he had raised the issue of conflict of interest on the part of some ministers and had himself resigned from some house committees citing this.

Mulayam Singh Yadav has been chief minister so he knows a thing or two about administration. What he hasn't thought about is policy. This basically means the Samajwadi Party will make up policy as it goes along. If the Congress treats it right it could be a better ally than it had thought.

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