The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Silent Sonia keeps Mulayam guessing
- Samajwadi cry for Mayavati ouster

Lucknow, Oct. 23: Sonia Gandhi’s silence kept Mulayam Singh Yadav fretting and allowed Mayavati to hold on to power despite the growing discontent among allies BJP and Rashtriya Lok Dal.

Mulayam today demanded that the Governor dismiss the Mayavati government since it had been reduced to a minority following the revolt within the BJP and its allies. But he added that there was no question of the Samajwadi Party staking claim.

“We are ready to form the alternative government if the BSP-BJP coalition fails,” he told party MLAs at a meeting here. Mulayam said he hoped the Congress “will agree to join Samajwadi’s fight against the BJP”.

The revolt-racked BJP leadership intensified its fire-fighting drive but met with little success. Undeterred by the 24-hour deadline given by the state leadership, the dissident MLAs went ahead with the scheduled meeting of the newly formed BJP Bachao Samiti. “There is no change in our stand,” forum convener Ganga Bhakta Singh said.

The rebels kept state BJP chief Vinay Katiyar and senior leader Kalraj Mishra, who had gone to the meeting to pacify them, waiting till they had worked out their future strategy.

Katiyar said efforts to persuade the rebels would continue and there was no question of disciplinary action. Pointing out that most dissidents were old RSS hands, he hoped they would not cross the “lakshman rekha”.

This was in sharp contrast to the hard line taken yesterday when the state BJP coordination committee authorised Katiyar, Mishra and Lalji Tandon to initiate disciplinary action if the rebels did not mend their ways within 24 hours.

Ganga Bhakta Singh, an RSS pracharak since 1947, is one of the oldest BJP leaders and was a minister in the 1967 government. He said the rebels would not be satisfied till BJP pulls out its ministers and offers outside support to the government instead. “If they expel us, we will be free do what we think best,” he said.

As the crisis within the ruling alliance deepened, Congress appeared to be holding the key to Lucknow’s political riddle. Sonia has so far not reacted to Mulayam’s plea for help. But her attack on “casteist and communal parties” at a Congress workers’ meet in Bundelkhand yesterday was a clear signal that she has decided to wait and watch.

The feedback received during three workers’ meets this week has prompted Sonia to keep equal distance from the BJP and the Samajwadi, to prepare ground for the Congress’ revival in its one-time bastion.

Mulayam, however, is not giving up. He said CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet was trying to forge a secular front in Uttar Pradesh and hinted that he might call on Sonia personally.

BJP general secretary and former chief minister Rajnath Singh, who was to go to Lucknow today to try and quell the dissidence, called off his trip and went to Orissa instead.

Sources said Singh spoke to the rebels on phone and asked them to “fall in line”. He felt his presence in Lucknow might give the impression he had a hand in stoking the rebellion.

Singh had opposed the BJP-BSP coalition from the start as he believed that the BJP’s upper caste base would get eroded and it would be reduced to playing second fiddle to a regional party.

That the recent rebellion was spearheaded by Thakurs and Bhumihars — who complained that their representation in the Cabinet was disproportionate to their population — gave rise to the speculation that Singh probably had a “role”.

While sources did not rule out the theory that many dissidents were Singh loyalists, they said it was unlikely that he had encouraged them. “He knows too well if he plays around with the coalition, the direct gainer would be Mulayam Singh Yadav and not him,” they said.

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