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Mulayam hints at playing spoilsport

New Delhi, Sept. 12: Mulayam Singh Yadav fanned Congress suspicion that he may yet again play spoilsport by being non-committal on supporting Sonia Gandhi for Prime Minister after next year’s general elections.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister ruled out a national secular front, preferring to extend “issue-based” support to the Congress, his ally in the state.

“Are Lok Sabha elections being held now' Where is the issue of prime ministership' Where is the majority to form government' Our stand is for issue-based support. We will both (Congress and Samajwadi Party) jointly decide,” he said at his first news conference in Delhi after becoming chief minister.

The Samajwadi chief had ditched the Congress president in 1999 when the party had the opportunity to form the government at the Centre.

Mulayam Singh, whose coronation was facilitated by the BJP, bristled when asked if he was trying to befriend the saffron party. “I will make friendship with the BJP when it gives up Ayodhya issue, abandons its advocacy of abolishing Article 370, does not talk of common civil code and changes its attitude towards Muslims.”

But the chief minister betrayed little of his earlier strident anti-BJP stand. “Court has not asked us,” he said, when asked if he would issue a fresh notification in the Babri demolition case in which Union ministers L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi are among the accused.

Mulayam Singh, who yesterday met the Prime Minister and his deputy, said he would counter Advani’s Ayodhya andolan with a vikas yatra as the state was clamouring for water, electricity, employment and medicine.

The chief minister, however, was clear that Sonia’s foreign origin was no longer an issue as the Supreme Court had settled it. The Samata Party — which is supporting Mulayam Singh’s coalition government — and its NDA ally, the BJP, are planning to launch a campaign against Sonia becoming Prime Minister.

Mulayam Singh said he had met Sonia on Wednesday, seeking her party’s participation in his government. But there was no assurance from her.

He said the Samajwadi has left it to its state units to decide on supporting the Congress during Assembly polls later this year. Mulayam Singh added that he would soon convene a dinner meeting of Opposition leaders in Delhi similar to those hosted by Sonia. He said his ministry would be expanded once coalition partners were consulted.

“Whether it (the ministry) will be small, medium or large will depend upon the interests of the state. Our priority is to save the state,” he said.

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