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Smiles on stage stir buzz of return

Lucknow, Aug. 5: Amar Singh shared stage with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav today for the first time after being expelled four years ago, sparking speculation about a reunion at a time Uttar Pradesh’s ruling party faces an ascendant BJP.

Mulayam’s son and chief minister Akhilesh was there too, smiling as officials greeted Amar with bouquets at the government event — the inauguration of a park here named after the late Samajwadi leader Janeshwar Mishra.

Amar, who had only yesterday recounted to a news channel “the sense of hurt and humiliation” he suffered when he was in the Samajwadi Party, insisted today’s programme was “apolitical” and he was there only because of memories associated with “Janeshwarji”.

“This programme has nothing to do with politics. But you are free to speculate,” Amar told reporters, asked if it presaged a coming together of old friends.

But that did not stop channels from feeding on the buzz that the meeting signalled a patch-up. The channels beamed images of the event with the caption “Mulayam’s Amar Prem”, apparently playing on the title of the 1972 classic starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore.

Addressing the event, Amar thanked Mulayam for inviting him, recalled his association with the late Mishra but soon seemed to turn bitter about “all those who had left him midway”. “Mujhe kayi beech raaste mein chhod gaye (many left me midway),” he said, without naming anyone.

The buzz about the reunion came against the backdrop of the political wilderness Amar finds himself in after his exit from the Samajwadi Party in 2010.

Amar floated his own outfit, the Akhil Bharatiya Lok Manch, but could not win a single seat in the 2012 Assembly polls that brought the Samajwadi Party to power.

Just before the general election this year, Amar and associate Jaya Prada — who was expelled along with him — joined Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and contested the polls. Both lost.

For Mulayam, Amar could help shore up the upper-caste Thakur votes, large chunks of which went to the BJP as it bagged 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats and prompted some to predict an encore in the 2017 state polls. Amar is a Thakur.

Today, eyes were glued to the bonhomie between Amar and the Samajwadi bigwigs. One image that lingered was Mulayam’s brother and state minister Shiv Pal Singh Yadav and Amar laughing and whispering into each other’s ears.

But some seemed to be sulking, too. Azam Khan, state minister and Mulayam’s minority face, stayed away, as did Ramgopal Yadav, another of Mulayam’s brothers. Both were among Amar’s harshest critics.