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TAKEN AT THE FLOOD

Of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadavís many gifts, a remarkable one is to know how to take the tide in the flood. He was never one to spend his voyage bound in miseries and shallows, and his triumphant sail to fortune has as much to do with his gift for seizing the right moment ó for which he has waited long enough ó as with a sudden concatenation of circumstances, of climaxing ego clashes, and a surfacing of multiple tensions that had all taken quite a while in the build-up. The Bahujan Samaj Party has helped Mr Yadav enormously, first by dissolving its tie-up with the Bharatiya Janata Party and then by providing him with the prize batch of defecting legislators. How they came to be where they are now is no longer a matter of speculation and allegation, simply because the mandatory one-third of BSP members of the legislative assembly had changed sides at first go. Mr Yadavís sailing had become smooth even before the Supreme Courtís dismissal of the BSPís writ petition challenging the governorís invitation to him to form an alternative government. The numbers, with the Rashtriya Lok Dal, the Rashtriya Kranti Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), independents and other parties, can only look glorious. Even the Congressís dithering decision is now irrelevant to Mr Yadav. The new chief minister can feel smug that this turn of events has led to divisions and doubts not only among the Congress, with its state unit unappeased by the reasons for not joining the Yadav government being offered by the high command, but among the BJP as well. Ms Mayavatiís allegations about the plot to unseat her being hatched by her enemies in the BJP, Mr Lalji Tandon and Mr Rajnath Singh among them, has done the face of BJP unity little good at a moment when it looks a little foolish anyway.

The tragedy is, as always, that of the people. The constant political instability, the one-upmanship among politicians to outdo one another in the role of saviours of backward groups while looking after the interests of the upper castes ó an impossible task in caste-riven UP ó and the stateís position as a plum gain in elections, have all eroded the possibility of meaningful governance or of steady development. The waste of natural resource and manpower is staggering, and the creation of Uttaranchal ó another episode in political game-playing ó has made no difference. Mr Yadav has the numbers, he has not been on the chief ministerís chair for a while, he has made some attempts to build a broad social base: it is now time to see whether he can make a difference.

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