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Fringe groups turn heat on Mayavati

Lucknow, Oct. 21: With 11 of the 12 Independent MLAs supporting the BJP-BSP coalition ready to switch sides and dissent in the BJP and its allies increasing, the stage seems set for Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to start fishing in Uttar Pradesh’s political waters.

“The only stumbling block for the formation of an alternative government now is the attitude the Congress adopts in the game,” conceded one of the BJP dissidents. He endorsed Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh’s line that Mulayam could topple the Mayavati government the moment Congress agreed to support a coalition led by his party.

Apprehensive that Mulayam would try to poach Bahujan legislators, chief minister Mayavati summoned a meeting of her party today to boost its morale. “There is no threat to my government,” asserted the chief minister.

Although there are no overt signs of trouble within the BSP, discord is growing in the 88-member BJP and the 14-member Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

The saffron rebels, who had formed a Save BJP Committee yesterday after they failed to meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his curtailed Lucknow visit, today faxed their protest to him.

They iterated that if the party was to be saved from “annihilation”, the central leadership should ask BJP ministers in the Mayavati government to resign and extend only issue-based support from outside.

The convener of the rebels’ forum, Ganga Bhakt Singh, said after a meeting of party MLAs at his residence that though no deadline had been fixed for Vajpayee’s response, the rebels would not wait indefinitely.

“We are meeting again on October 23 to decide our future course of action,” he said, claiming that 27 party MLAs and 10 MLCs had already joined the rebel camp and their number was rising every day.

The BJP rebels seemed unconcerned about urban development minister Lalji Tandon’s call for a meeting of the party MLAs. “We are not sure whether we will attend or not,” their spokesman Ramashees Rai said.

Former Uttar Pradesh minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya — who is leading the group of disenchanted Independent MLAs — confirmed that some MLAs from the “Rashtriya Lok Dal and other smaller groups” were also unhappy with the distribution of ministries. “We are trying to bring all of them together,” he said.

Raja Bhaiyya has called a meeting of the Independents and fringe party legislators on October 24. “When we supported the ruling coalition, we had been assured a place of honour. Now that they have broken their promise, we are ready to back any party which recognises our weight,” he said.

Political observers say a split in the RLD legislature party — whose senior leader Samarpal Singh is sulking in the wings — could tilt the balance against the BJP-BSP coalition, which had secured 217 votes against the Opposition’s 180 during the trial of strength in May.

Two MLAs — the Samajwadi’s Vijay Misra and Independent Mukhtar Ansari — who could not participate in the last confidence vote have no love lost for Mayavati.

Even if half-a-dozen RLD legislators and some fringe party legislators join hands with the 11 Independent rebels, they could push the coalition to the brink of disaster in the next floor test in the House with an affective strength of 399.

In the midst of the rapidly changing political equations, the Congress, which holds the balance with 24 MLAs, is not willing to reveal its cards. “It is for the Congress president to respond to Amar Singh’s plea, but we would like to think twice before playing ball with Mulayam in view of our bitter experiences of working with him in the past,” the party chief in Uttar Pradesh, Arun Singh Munna, said.

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