New Delhi, June 13: The political shocker from the M-square duo is part of a larger political gameplan to force an early election that may suit the Samajwadi Party (SP) in its gambit to prop up Mulayam Singh Yadav as a prospective Prime Minister, said SP sources.
It was also meant to squash the perception that the SP had been “co-opted” as a “handmaiden” of the Congress after Sonia Gandhi went out of her way to please Mulayam in public gaze at the UPA’s eighth anniversary.
“Googly? What googly have we thrown?” chuckled Mulayam on the phone. “These three names (APJ Abdul Kalam, Somnath Chatterjee and Manmohan Singh) were listed after extensive discussions because we want to get the maximum possible consensus. BJP, NDA, Congress… everyone should support one of our candidates,” he said.
Asked why his party didn’t consider Pranab Mukherjee, especially after Mamata Banerjee had been sounded out on him by Sonia, Mulayam said: “How could we have? Was Sonia serious about Pranab in the first place?”
Samajwadi sources rejected the speculation swirling in Delhi’s political waters about the M&M duo being used by Sonia to “eliminate” Mukherjee from the race and bring the Prime Minister in instead of doing it herself. “It’s rubbish,” a source said of the speculation.
“These three names were Mulayam’s and Mamata’s.”
Samajwadi sources said they were “extremely upset” when a day after the visuals of the Mulayam-Sonia bonhomie at the Prime Minister’s dinner were played out to the Congress’s “advantage”, the government hiked oil prices by an unprecedented Rs 7.50.
“It was a slap on our face because the Congress successfully created an impression that it could use ‘Netaji’ (Mulayam) as an insurance cover against Mamata. The message to Mamata was we have Mulayam on our side so we will go ahead and do what we want without heeding your concerns. But the point is that the raise hit us just as badly as it did the UPA’s allies. Our cadres questioned the leaders and asked why did ‘Netaji’ go out of his way to consort publicly with this discredited government? For what?” a source asked.
The fear that the SP might repeat the 2008 saga, when it bailed out the UPA on the Indo-US nuclear deal and earned for itself the label of being the Congress’s “B-team”, loomed large in the background. “The Congress used the reprieve to its advantage by bringing in a slew of pro-people measures. MNREGA, waiver of farmer loans… We got nothing. We didn’t want to become bonded labourers again,” the source said.
The source also stressed that the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections were not just about the SP defeating the BSP but also trouncing the Congress in the Gandhi strongholds of Amethi and Rae Bareli. Sources said Mulayam had already got feelers from the Congress to “go easy” on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in their respective constituencies in the next Lok Sabha polls.
The SP, the source said, had the potential to spirit away votes, particularly those of the Muslims, in the Congress’s high-stake poll-going states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. “So the Congress needs our support, not just to keep the UPA government afloat but to also neutralise us in future elections,” the source added.
Mulayam’s partnership with Mamata — sealed a couple of months ago after she announced they would firm up a joint strategy on the presidential poll — did appear shaky after he was wooed by the Bengal chief minister. However, his socialist comrade of yore from Bengal, Kiranmay Nanda, stepped in to revive it before a breach was created. Nanda, a Rajya Sabha MP, travelled with Mamata from Calcutta to Delhi yesterday and was present in the meetings Mulayam had with her along with the SP general secretary, Ramgopal Yadav.
Lastly, far from seeing a durable UPA completing its innings, Samajwadi sources contended that an early Lok Sabha poll, possibly by 2013, suited them because “there were huge gains to be made”. “There is a chance that by 2014, our Uttar Pradesh government might suffer anti-incumbency,” a source admitted.
The SP is looking at picking up at least 55 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. Assuming that in the best-case scenario, it wins 45 or 50 seats, sources believed it could position Mulayam as a “formidable” contender for the prime ministerial sweepstakes in a possible coalition of regional parties.
“For us the presidential poll was a way of testing the waters for a prospective third front formation. That is why we want parties like the BJD, AIADMK and even the Janata Dal (United) to come on board and support one of the three names we flagged,” the source said.