When Amar Singh shared the dais with party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav at an event in Lucknow on 5 August, it led to intense speculation over his possible return to the Samajwadi Party. Mulayam had invited the Rajya Sabha member and former general secretary of his party to the inauguration of a 300-acre park named after veteran socialist leader Janeshwar Mishra in the posh Gomti Nagar area of the state capital.
Amar Singh was associated with the Samajwadi Party from 1996 until he was expelled in 2010 for “anti-party activities”. He was nominated to the Rajya Sabha first in 1996 and then in 2002 and 2008. His current term ends on 25 November.
Now, following the rout of the Samajwadi Party in the 2014 General Election, where it was reduced to just four seats in the Lok Sabha, and the mounting political challenge from the BJP in the state, Amar Singh and Mulayam seem to heading towards a rapprochement.
Though Mulayam did not mention Amar Singh in his speech at the 5 August function, the latter declared himself a “Mulayamwadi”. “I have never gone to jail, never struggled for the people’s problems on the streets under the scorching sun. So I am not a Samajwadi, I am Mulayamwadi,” said Amar Singh, who also clarified that he had “come on the invitation of `Netaji’ and no political inferences should be drawn from my presence here”.
As expected, Amar Singh’s detractors in the party stayed away from the event. Prominent among them were Minority Affairs Minister Azam Khan and Ram Gopal Yadav, leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha. “There were some khiladi (players) and some madari ( jugglers) on the dais, but they were not invited with my approval,” said Khan, referring perhaps to the presence of Amar Singh. Ram Gopal Yadav, too, dismissed the significance of the event and said, “Amar Singh was just one of the 10,000 people who were invited.”
Former Union minister Beni Prasad Verma, who was Mulayam’s close associate for over three decades, said that although Mulayam seemed keen to bring back Amar Singh, it would take some time as there are differences within the party’s first family over this. “Shivpal Singh Yadav is in favour of Amar Singh but Ram Gopal Yadav is vehemently opposed to the idea,” said Verma. “But it is true that Mulayam and Amar Singh need each other. Amar Singh wants a fourth term in the Rajya Sabha, while Mulayam needs a political manager in New Delhi. But CM Akhilesh Yadav is wary as it would create another power centre in the party.” Verma had quit the Samajwadi Party and joined the Congress in 2007 because of the rising stature of Amar Singh.
Senior party leaders reveal that Mulayam is anxious to have a direct channel of communication with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, and considers Amar Singh to be apt for the role. “Mulayam knows that Amar Singh is close to a Gujarat-based business house that benefited immensely from the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh during 2003-07,” says a senior SP leader on the condition of anonymity.
Observers believe that Mulayam’s invitation to Amar Singh was meant to send out a message to the various camps within the party. “Amar Singh’s presence on the dais made everyone nervous. All the factions are weighing their options and as soon as they fall in line, the situation will be clear,” says a Lucknow-based political analyst.
Once known as a “backroom boy” of Mulayam’s party, a political “fixer” and a bridge between the corporate and political worlds, Amar Singh has been in the political wilderness since his expulsion. His friends in the corporate and Bollywood circles such as Anil Ambani, Adi Godrej and Amitabh Bachchan have also deserted him.
Yet, Mulayam is keen to give him another lease of political life as there is no other leader in the Samajwadi Party with the acumen to open channels of dialogue with adversaries. It was easier for Mulayam to interact with the Centre during the UPA rule as he could directly approach Sonia Gandhi. But now, the SP supremo perhaps needs Amar Singh to initiate a conversation with the Modi-led regime.