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SC order shackles Samajwadi to Cong

New Delhi, Dec. 13: Mulayam Singh Yadav’s dependence on the UPA increased manifold today after the Supreme Court refused to grant him reprieve from a CBI probe in a disproportionate assets case.

As if that wasn’t trouble enough for the Samajwadi Party chief, his son Akhilesh — whom he anointed as Uttar Pradesh chief minister in March this year — will also be subject to the investigation that the court will directly monitor.

For Akhilesh, whose induction was anything but smooth, the court directive has compounded a pile of troubles that include bad law and order, emergence of multiple power centres in the party and the government, and a truculent bureaucracy.

Akhilesh had sought to contain the rise of an early anti-incumbency sentiment against him by fulfilling the promises rolled out in the Samajwadi’s poll manifesto, including distributing freebies like tablets, an unemployment dole and special financial grants to girls and minorities.

But the huge costs the goodies extracted have further bled an anaemic state exchequer. Samajwadi sources complained that notwithstanding their support to the Centre, fiscal help wasn’t exactly forthcoming.

Sources said Mulayam’s “worst nightmare” was the threat of the CBI unearthing clinching evidence against him and Akhilesh. If the evidence was enough to nail both, they said, it would spoil his plans of leading a “regional front” after the 2014 elections and make it untenable for Akhilesh to continue as chief minister.

“We sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that,” a Samajwadi source said.

After Mulayam dithered on his position on retail FDI in Parliament and eventually helped the government by walking out in both Houses, Samajwadi cadres had internally protested, saying that such steps would reduce their party to being a Congress “B-team”. “We have to play an effective Opposition,” an Akhilesh aide stressed.

That’s what the Samajwadi set out to do when it unflinchingly resisted the passage of a bill on reserving promotions for SC/ST employees. Sources claimed their continued stalling of the Rajya Sabha — where the bill was tabled — had sent out a “positive” signal to the heartland’s upper castes and the OBCs.

“The caste battle lines were being reinforced, at least in Uttar Pradesh, because they felt Mulayam was the only wall of resistance against Mayawati’s agenda, and not the Congress or the BJP,” a Samajwadi MP said.

This morning, after the apex court order came, the Samajwadi pulled its punches considerably and “agreed” to leave the Rajya Sabha after staging a last round of protest.

Its earlier plan was to force a confrontation and dare the government to physically evict all its nine MPs, who include Jaya Bachchan. Instead, a couple of the less prominent ones were asked to leave. The drama — scripted to give the Samajwadi a “face-saver” — petered out with a walkout.

Sources said Kamal Nath, the parliamentary affairs minister, made it clear to the Samajwadi’s floor managers that the government would not countenance their “shenanigans”.

“That is the first sign the Congress will get tougher with us,” a Samajwadi source said.

Mayawati’s political confidence — boosted with an earlier Supreme Court order, ruling out further CBI investigations in a similar assets case against her — was manifest as she dictated the storyline in the Rajya Sabha today. “That was particularly galling because she is better placed to be an effective Opposition against the Congress than we are,” the source said, grudgingly.