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Suspense ends, M stays for now

Mulayam outside Parliament on
Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi, March 21: A day after Mulayam Singh Yadav tried to puzzle the Congress over the longevity of his support, he ended the suspense but did not give any commitment that he would continue to stand by the UPA for the rest of the term.

The Samajwadi Party chief told his MPs this morning that if they pulled out of the UPA, Mamata Banerjee would “willingly” fill in for them and they would consequently be left “high and dry”.

Samajwadi sources present in the meeting said Mulayam informed them that on Wednesday, Sonia Gandhi herself came up to him in Parliament and “apologised, not once, but thrice”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, apparently regretted his minister Beni Prasad Verma’s intemperate words for Mulayam. “It was a big honour for two leaders to say sorry. Therefore, we should reciprocate their gestures by not doing anything drastic,” an MP quoted Mulayam as saying.

Not only has the Samajwadi decided to call off its agitation for Verma’s dismissal from the cabinet, sources said Mulayam was not in a mood “yet” to rock the government.

However, sources did not rule out the possibility of their leader having flagged demands for Uttar Pradesh, including a special package that the Centre had released in driblets in the past. “Now he wants speedy and large disbursements from Delhi,” a source said, adding the state required huge funds to underwrite the promises chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has been making such as free laptops for students, special doles for girl students, farmers’ subsidies, etc.

But nobody would commit from Mulayam’s side on how long his truce with the Centre would hold. “He will start giving the Congress jitters when he realises he is in a commanding position again. That was his mood yesterday morning when he refused to accept Sonia’s apology and became more aggressive towards Verma. By evening, when Mamata Banerjee’s party said it would back the government on the Sri Lanka resolution and signalled it might be ready for a rapprochement with the Congress, Netaji was beset with doubts over the wisdom of an early pullout,” a source said.

Mamata was not the only factor to force a revisit.

Mulayam, said the source, sensed there was “discomfort” within the DMK “parivar” over the withdrawal of support but couldn’t figure how it would play out vis--vis the Congress. Then, there were reports that the Janata Dal (United) too was cosying up to the Congress. “He did not wish to be a has-been in the Congress’s scheme of things,” a source said.

But to give an impression that the Samajwadi was not about to capitulate, some MPs stressed that they must put out the word that they were not cowed down by the CBI threat. They were provoked into saying it after a perception went around that the CBI raid on the house of DMK leader M.K. Stalin, two days after the party exited the UPA, was a tactic to scare Mulayam of the consequences he could face if he “acted tough”.