The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chained UP Cong carps at Sonia
- Disgruntled legislators dangle split threat

Lucknow, Sept. 7: As Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav prepared to go for a cabinet expansion immediately after proving his majority tomorrow, a sense of despondency gripped Uttar Pradesh Congress legislators.

“Why has the high command asked us to support Mulayam if it does not want us to join his government'” asked Kanpur MLA Ajay Kapur after a late night meeting of Congress legislators.

They told Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s emissary Subodh Kant Sahay that the party might face another split in Uttar Pradesh if the high command continued to procrastinate on participation.

With the BSP split, Congress support is no more a compulsion for Mulayam Singh.

Two small party MLAs joined the Samajwadi on August 29 itself, when governor Vishnu Kant Shastri invited Mulayam Singh to form the government. With the merger of 37 BSP defectors yesterday, the count of his flock went up to 181 and six more BSP members are expected to join before the confidence vote.

The Samajwadi will thus have 187 MLAs in the House of 403. With the Rashtriya Lok Dal (with 14 MLAs), the Rashtriya Kranti Party (4), the CPM (2), the Loktantrik Congress (2), smaller parties (6) and 13 Independents, it would command a support of 228 MLAs without the Congress.

As Mulayam Singh has managed to breach Mayavati’s citadel, the BJP has become the principal Opposition party — a role the party has been reluctant to perform ever since it was thrown out of power by the electorate in the 2002 Assembly elections.

For the time being, Mulayam Singh is unconcerned about the challenge from the BJP. He knows the BJP state unit is in the dumps and its leaders Rajnath Singh, Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon are fighting among themselves for supremacy. So he has decided to nibble into the Congress’ truncated support base.

Relegating the Congress to the margins in Uttar Pradesh will also enable Mulayam Singh to put the Samajwadi in a position from which it could dictate terms during the Sonia-Mulayam Singh interface in the next Lok Sabha elections.

State Congress chief Jagdambika Pal seemed to concede this when he told party legislators that he had tried his best to press the high command in favour of joining the government.

At his prodding, the MLAs virtually gave an ultimatum to Sahay. “If the high command does not care to look after our interests, we will have to do so ourselves,” said Bundelkhand MLA Pradeep Mathur.

Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tewari was virtually booed when he tried to get the MLAs to leave the question to Sonia and abide by her verdict. “We have done so till now but we cannot endanger our future any longer,” an MLA from eastern Uttar Pradesh bluntly told him.

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