The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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If Sonia would, Amar could

New Delhi, Oct. 21: The Prime Minister’s sore throat has sent the political temperature soaring in Uttar Pradesh with the Samajwadi Party promising to bring down the Mayavati government “within 24 hours”, if the Congress “plays ball”.

But keeping its options open, the Congress has asked the Samajwadi to ensure the support of 175 legislators before launching a formal bid for power. If the Samajwadi manages that and the Congress, which has 25 MLAs, offers support, the Assembly with a majority mark of 200 could witness a power shift.

The Samajwadi, which won the largest number of seats in the Assembly elections but fell far short of the majority mark, bounced back into the ring after dissidence within the BSP-BJP ruling coalition threatened to spiral out of control.

The Prime Minister’s inability to meet disenchanted BJP legislators yesterday in Lucknow has provided the Samajwadi with the spark it has been waiting for.

In a virtual SOS, the Samajwadi asked the Congress “to rise to the occasion” and prove its secular credentials and help make the most of the situation, which is “ripe for an alternative government”.

“The fact that even the Prime Minister had to run away from Lucknow and cancel the press meeting yesterday showed the gravity of the internal dissent in the state BJP,” said Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh.

“The moment the Congress decides, within 24 hours the government will go. The onus lies on the Congress.... If Sonia Gandhi decides, things will happen. We pray that she decides soon,” he added.

The Samajwadi sought the Congress’ support for a secular front that would include former BJP leader Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister at the time of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

Amar Singh said if the Congress can appoint Shankersinh Vaghela, a former RSS pracharak, as the president of its Gujarat unit, it should have no problem supporting a front including Kalyan Singh.

Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has over 140 MLAs, has met Kalyan Singh. If the Congress joins hands with the Samajwadi, the front will have 179 legislators, 21 short of the required 200. Mulayam is angling for the BSP’s 13 Muslim legislators, who are sore at Mayavati for “promoting the saffron cause”, 12 Independents and a few rebel BJP members.

The coalition in power in Lucknow has the BSP’s 97, the BJP’s 88 and 14 of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which has turned restive, and Independents

Dissident BJP MLAs, who were denied berths in Mayavati’s jumbo Cabinet, are likely to meet on Wednesday to chalk out their course of action.

Warning the Congress that history has shown that “at times, neutrality is also a crime”, Mulayam said the ball is in Sonia’s court as secular forces have to fight unitedly in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and the Centre.

The Congress leadership must realise that the root of the communal problem in Gujarat was in Ayodhya, he said.

Asked if the Samajwadi was in touch with the disgruntled MLAs from the other side, Amar Singh said that in politics, everyone is in touch with everyone.

In a veiled threat to the Congress, he said that if the party failed to work together with other secular forces in Gujarat, the Samajwadi would put up candidates for all seats in the state.


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