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Smile puts ball in Cong court
- Maya puts off decision on support to UPA

Lucknow, Oct. 10: If the season of enigmatic politics needed a Mona Lisa moment, Mayawati’s mystery smile provided it today.

The BSP chief said she was putting off a decision on whether her party would continue extending outside support to the UPA government, a smile playing on her lips as she made the announcement (PTI picture on right).

Congress leaders in Delhi had expressed confidence last night that she was unlikely to precipitate matters right now.

“I have been given the responsibility (to decide),” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister told reporters in Lucknow. But postponement, Mayawati made it clear, didn’t mean indefinite delay. “This decision will be taken and conveyed to you very soon,” she added.

The smile emerged somewhere mid-sentence when she took her eyes off the written text of her speech to look at the journalists. It lasted a few seconds but long enough to send many scrambling to interpret the possible reasons. Mayawati has rarely been known to smile during speeches.

According to behavioural experts, a smile need not always be an expression of feelings.

Very likely in this case too, said a senior Congress leader. “Pressure must have been building on her since the Supreme Court clarification yesterday to the CBI that it is free to investigate a disproportionate assets case. Mayawati appears to have sent the pressure ball back to the Congress’s court,” the leader said.

“So what was a relief in July has thus become a fresh irritant for Mayawati,” said an observer. “She appears to have decided to watch which way the wind blows.”

In late 2005, Dutch researchers from the University of Amsterdam ran an image of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece through an “emotion recognition” computer software developed in collaboration with the University of Illinois. The technology demonstration found the smile to be 83 per cent happy, 9 per cent disgusted, 6 per cent fearful and 2 per cent angry.

No such clues were available today, but if the BSP boss was masking her feelings, she didn’t pull her punches.

Mayawati said her party had extended outside support to the UPA government in the hope that it would weaken communal forces. “Sadly, right from the beginning, the central government’s attitude has been frustrating,” she said.

“It is a government embroiled in graft cases and it is not equipped with any mechanism to check this,” she added. “Besides, there is a sense of unrest among people over a number of anti-people decisions of the Centre.”

Mayawati said she had discussed these issues with members of her parliamentary party. This morning, the issue of continuing support to the UPA came up at a national executive body meeting, she said. “Both the party’s highest bodies have left the decision to me.”

Without the BSP’s 21 MPs, the UPA’s Lok Sabha strength will fall to 275, just four more than the majority mark of 271.

Mayawati said the situation was so volatile, general elections could take place before 2014. “We are fully prepared for early polls,” she added.

The Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s heartland rival, also hinted at early polls. “The UPA is not here for long,” general secretary Mohan Singh said.

The party’s parliamentary body, which met today, however, deferred a decision on withdrawing support to the UPA.

Pawar call

NCP chief Sharad Pawar today asked party workers to be ready for possible snap polls.

“The BSP chief has said that polls are possible before 2014. The Trinamul Congress has withdrawn from the government. After seeing all these developments, any political party should be ready to face the voters again,” the Union minister said in Vadodara after a party national working committee meeting.

Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, who recently resigned as Maharashtra deputy chief minister over allegations of corruption, did not attend the meet. NCP Union minister Praful Patel said Ajit was down with fever.