An enormous increase in the number of ministers is not always the best way to preserve a fragile coalition. Ms Mayavati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who recently inducted 56 new ministers into her cabinet, is discovering this. Ms Mayavati sits at the head of a very rickety coalition formed by the unlikely alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The decision to expand the cabinet was an obvious step to strengthen the cabinet. But such a step to buy support by distributing the largesse of office can never satisfy everybody. Consequently, it has created more disgruntlement than Ms Mayavati bargained for. A number of legislators elected on BJP tickets have already expressed their displeasure, and much to the chagrin and embarrassment of the BJP, have opened up channels of communication with the Samajwadi Party. The supremo of the latter, Mulayam Singh Yadav, although in a bit of a hurry, has still not quite got the numbers to make a successful bid for the government in Lucknow. But the cracks in the coalition are now apparent, and Mr Yadav has only to bide his time in the wings before he captures the political centrestage once again.
The problem in UP is a little more deeprooted than the propensity for horse-trading among legislators. The BJP and the BSP represent the aspirations of two different social groups. The BSP is the voice of the Dalits. The BJP has traditionally drawn its support from the upper castes, the oppressor of the Dalits. There exists no common ground between these two social forces. Yet, a commonality has been forged, and the driving force behind that was the sharing of office and power. The BJP-BSP alliance is not based on any shared principles. The BJP has made some moves to step out of its support mould. Witness, the appointment of Vinay Katiyar as the party president in UP, a step obviously aimed at wooing the other backward classes, Mr Yadav’s fortress. But the lure of office is breaking down many of the accepted stereotypes. Many of the BJP legislators who have openly expressed their dissent against the existing dispensation are from the upper castes. These rebels have not responded positively to the appeals made by their caste brethren from within the higher echelons of the BJP. The dissappointment at not being made ministers is prevailing over caste loyalties and the demands of party discipline and hierarchy. Ms Mayavati may well be plagued by the genie of rising expectations that she has released in the politics of UP. This, of course, is not to suggest that Mr Yadav has alternative instruments to satisfy his supporters.