The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati managers calm minus Ajit

Lucknow, May 24: Mayavati’s political managers are confident that the withdrawal of Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal from the Uttar Pradesh coalition poses no threat to her government.

Reacting to reports that Jat leader Ajit had got all five RLD ministers to resign, a Bahujan Samaj Party minister claimed: “We have the numbers even without them.”

“But if he tries to pull the rug from under behenji’s feet, he might find himself a lone man,” he warned, hinting that Mayavati could split the 14-member RLD in the Assembly.

The chief minister has already increased the BSP’s strength from 97 to 110 by splitting the Congress and smaller parties. Excluding the RLD, the BJP and others give her a majority of 210 in the 402-member House.

In contrast, the Opposition, led by the Samajwadi Party and the Congress, has a line-up of 174 MLAs. Even if RLD legislators cross over en block, it is in no position to form an alternative government.

Akhilesh Singh and Atique Ahmed — left alone in the Akhil Bharatiya Congress Dal and Apna Dal respectively after Mayavati split the outfits — are considered fence sitters. They had supported Mayavati from jail during the last trial of strength in the Assembly, but were not rewarded because they declined to join the BSP.

BSP sources claimed six RLD legislators were in touch with them. “But just now Mayavati is not over keen to split the RLD,” they indicated.

Mayavati could now redistribute portfolios like PWD and rural engineering held by RLD ministers — Anuradha Chowdhary, Kokab Hameed, Thakur Tejpal Singh, Swami Omvesh and Bau Lal — to BSP legislators who were dropped to accommodate them.

A member of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, Ajit had been in political wilderness till former chief minister Rajnath Singh roped him into the NDA to court the Jats during the May 2001 Assembly polls.

Though the gambit did not pay off, the RLD won 14 seats and its MLAs proved crucial when the BJP formed its coalition with the BSP to instal the Mayavati government in 2002.

Ajit then demanded a piece of the power pie and Mayavati agreed to induct six of his nominees in the Cabinet. But in the process, he sowed the seeds of dissent as a large chunk of RLD legislators led by Samarpal Singh felt left out.

This dissidence may now come in handy for Mayavati. Samarpal today defied Ajit’s summons to party MLAs to reach Delhi. “Ajit Singh has been using the party as a vehicle for his personal promotion and most of us have lost faith in him,” he said.

Reduced to a sub-regional leader whose influence is confined to western UP districts, Ajit is now isolated again. Though he is reportedly in touch with Samajwadi and Congress leaders, both view him with suspicion.

Theoretically, by joining hands with the Samajwadi and the Congress, Ajit can help build a powerful combine of landholding castes comprising Muslims, Ahirs, Jats, Gujars and Rajputs.

“If formalised, such an arrangement will decimate the Hindutva forces in the country’s largest state that accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats,” a Congress leader said.

In reality, however, the possibility appears remote. There is no love lost between Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ajit since the Samajwadi boss defeated him as leader of the Janata Dal Legislature Party after the 1989 election. Nor do the Congress and the Samajwadi appear ready for an alliance for the next Lok Sabha poll.

Having emerged as the focal point of opposition to Mayavati through his halla bol agitation, Mulayam can afford to wait and watch Ajit play his cards.

So can Mayavati, who appears in control of the situation and whose party is the most prepared to face a snap poll.

It is the BJP that may emerge as the biggest loser. Recent voter mood surveys indicate a phenomenal decline in the party’s popularity though Mayavati continues to retain her support base among the Dalits.

“After Ajit’s departure, our dependence on Mayavati is bound to increase. And this would lead to further erosion of the party’s support base,” said a BJP leader.

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