WITH THE DMK’s exit from the Congress- led UPA, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has started making loud pronouncements on the possibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP led alliance at the Centre ahead of the 2014 General Election. The SP, expected to emerge as the third largest party in 2014, is reviving talks of a Third Front ahead of the polls.
Addressing a meeting at Sangli, Maharashtra, on 24 March, Yadav called for regional parties to come together for 2014. “Coalition government is the need of the country as no single party can come to power at the Centre on its own,” thundered the SP supremo. “It is high time for parties with the common goal of achieving social change to come together in Maharashtra, Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.” This was immediately after he had met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.
Yadav has for long coveted the country’s highest post — the prime ministerial chair. Now, he believes that with neither the UPA nor the NDA in a position to form the government in 2014, the SP will play the kingmaker, and he possibly, the king. Since 2004, his party has been extending unconditional outside support to the UPA. With 22 MPs, it provides a crucial lifeline to the UPA at the Centre.
Expectedly, Yadav’s new stance has made the Congress wary. Quick to dismiss the idea of a Third Front, senior Congressmen have called it a “permanent mirage” of Indian politics. “Some regional parties conduct their politics according to certain ideologies and programmes. But there are some who are devoid of any ideology and their sole aim is grabbing power,” says Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh, taking an obvious dig at Yadav.
On his part, the SP chief is keeping his options open and, in fact, has even praised BJP veteran LK Advani, and admonished his own son for weak governance in UP. All this is in line with the compulsions of keeping everyone happy in politics. The Congress has not missed the cue and has questioned Yadav’s secularism. “How can Muslims trust a person like Mulayam Singh Yadav, who praises Advani, who was present at the Babri Masjid demolition?” says Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma.
However, a close observation shows a design in Netaji’s actions. Be it praising Advani, mocking the Congress or the call to regional parties to come together, Yadav is only batting for a bigger role for himself and his party, post 2014.
Officially, the party has backed its chief over his remarks praising Advani, but is playing its cards close to its chest. “Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani are among the tallest leaders of India but that does not mean we are entering into an alliance with the BJP,” says SP General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav. According to insiders, party members are not in favour of burning bridges with either the UPA or the NDA, due to the fluid political situation.
Yadav had first floated the idea of a Third Front in July 2012. He had made no bones about the fact that he wanted to become prime minister, urging party cadres to ensure that the SP emerges as a formidable player in the 2014 polls by winning at least 60 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP.
Political observers feel that Yadav is sending a clear message to the Congress that he is not short of political options. The question is whether he would be able to prop up a Third Front?
THE TEPID response of the Left parties could throw a spanner in the works for the UP leader; they have already stated that a Third Front can only be contemplated after the 2014 polls. “Theoretically, a Third Front is always possible, but it has a long way to go to acquire a concrete shape,” says CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat.
Ashok Mishra, former state secretary, CPI, says Netaji’s enthusiasm betrays his anxiety. “Yadav’s desperation to realise his dream of becoming the prime minister has exposed that he is an opportunist,” says Mishra. “He has put everything at stake — his commitment to secular values, the minorities and socialism — in a bid to keep everyone in good humour.”
But not everyone agrees. There are some who argue that Yadav is on the right track, given that political alliances after 2014 will at best be amorphous. In such a situation, regional satraps like Yadav will do everything to extract maximum advantage.
“If Yadav is projecting himself as the prime minister, he’s not day-dreaming,” says Ashutosh Mishra, professor of political science in Lucknow University. “He could be a kingmaker or even the king after 2014.”