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Mulayam’s triple ‘tease’ for Centre
Musical date with President sparks buzz

New Delhi, Sept. 22: Mulayam Singh Yadav kept Delhi abuzz today by using a cultural event to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan, meeting a leader of NDA partner Shiromani Akali Dal, and pledging support to Trinamul if it moved a Parliament resolution over FDI in retail.

Coming a day after he had assured support to the Centre to keep out “communal forces”, these events appeared part of a ploy by the Samajwadi Party chief, known for his political pirouettes, to keep the government on tenterhooks.

Mulayam’s evening visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan, on a day the Prime Minister had met the President, created a flutter for some time. Later, it transpired that the Samajwadi boss had arrived as an invitee to a cultural programme held by vocalist Shubha Mudgal.

Mulayam, however, has never been known as a classical music fan. So, the “real reason” for his visit continued to be a subject of speculation.

Sources close to the Uttar Pradesh politician said he liked to keep people guessing.

“He may have used the event to have a chat with President Pranab Mukherjee just to tease the UPA leadership,” a Samajwadi leader said.

Earlier, after paying a surprise visit to Punjab’s Akali Dal deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, Mulayam refused to explain why he had met a BJP ally but insisted it had nothing to do with politics.

“My association with the Badals has been long. Parkash Singh Badal (Sukhbir’s father) was a close associate of Chaudhary Charan Singh,” he said and left quickly.

In between, at a TV interview, the Samajwadi chief showered praise on Mamata Banerjee’s secular credentials. To a question, he said: “Mamataji is secular. If she brings in a resolution in the House against FDI, we will not oppose it.”

Trinamul today said it would move a resolution in Parliament over FDI in retail but did not say anything about demanding a vote on the resolution.

Yesterday, Mukul Roy had said Trinamul would demand a vote to establish that most political parties opposed the government’s decision and, through a defeat for the Centre on the issue, show that it was indeed in a minority.

Today, in Calcutta, Saugata Roy merely said: “We have decided to move a resolution against FDI in multi-brand retail in the next session of Parliament. We want a debate inside and outside Parliament.”

Mulayam reaffirmed his party’s opposition to the retail sector being opened up to foreign investors. “We oppose it and we will oppose it at any cost,” he said.

Samajwadi sources said Mulayam would continue his flip-flops and keep everyone guessing about his political position till October 9, when Mayawati is expected to announce her party’s stand on the Centre’s recent economic decisions.

Mulayam does not want to let his arch-rival get closer to the central government. Both the Samajwadis and the Bahujan Samaj Party are supporting the UPA from outside. Trinamul’s exit has left the government dependent on their support.

Close shave

Shivpal Singh Yadav, an Uttar Pradesh minister and younger brother of Mulayam, and five others had a narrow escape when their aircraft skidded off the runway on landing at Delhi’s IGI airport around 11.30am today. Director-general of civil aviation Arun Mishra said the two landing gears of the state government-owned six-seater Beechcraft broke while landing.