The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia lends Mulayam ear, not MLAs

New Delhi, Oct. 27: Keen to keep her Kashmir “coup” unsullied, Sonia Gandhi has offered little more than “moral support” to Mulayam Singh Yadav, who swallowed his well-publicised anathema to her and sought her help this evening in toppling Mayavati in Uttar Pradesh.

On his visit to 10 Janpath, Mulayam was accompanied by party colleague Amar Singh and CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet, who was the prime force behind a drive in 1999 to instal a Sonia-led Union government which was derailed by Mulayam.

“The talks were good and lasted 40 minutes,” Mulayam said while leaving Sonia’s house.

But Congress leaders said Sonia’s gameplan is to keep Mulayam “engaged”, instead of saying a categorical “yes” or “no”, till the fluid political situation in Uttar Pradesh takes a more conclusive turn.

The detractors of Mulayam in the Congress ruled out the possibility of Sonia giving a formal letter of support before he shows the requisite numbers.

The Congress feels that the fall of the Mayavati regime is neither inevitable nor imminent.

At the same time, the compulsions of coalition politics and the sharp ideological divide between the BJP and Mayavati are forcing Sonia to ensure that she is not seen as tacitly bailing out the Uttar Pradesh government.

The Congress Working Committee is deeply divided on extending support to the Samajwadi Party.

A leader from Uttar Pradesh said: “It is a divide between the mind and heart. The logic and the political compulsions of the coalition era force us to be seen as backing Mulayam, but the spirit of Panchmarhi (where the Congress decided to go it alone) and Mulayam’s previous record prevent us from going all out.”

A section of the CWC has bluntly told Sonia that a coalition with Mulayam would be suicidal for the state Congress. “Why should the minorities who are getting attracted to us back us if they have Mulayam as chief minister' Why should the upper caste return to the Congress if we support him'” a CWC member asked.

Sonia’s own feedback from the “ground” is that the party rank and file is dead set against the Congress playing second fiddle to Mulayam.

Sonia had recently been to Uttar Pradesh four times, visiting Moradabad, Jhansi, Gorakhpur and Mathura to meet “Congress workers”.

Sonia was constantly greeted with slogans like “Gathbandan ki rajniti nahin chale gee (the politics of coalition would not work)” and “1989 ki galti mat dohrao (do not repeat the mistake of 1989)”. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi had crowned Mulayam chief minister, extending outside support which led to the downfall of the Congress in the state.

Saying Sonia “disliked horse trading”, a CWC member added: “She did not let her own party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad poach in Jammu and Kashmir. How do you expect her to give a licence to Mulayam'”

However, the “pragmatics” in the CWC favour a more cautious approach. According to them, Sonia must understand that the era of coalition is here to stay, and show flexibility.

In such a scenario, the Congress cannot have a majority of its own at the Centre and it will need the support of non-NDA partners, like Mulayam, for Delhi.

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