A salve may soothe, but not necessarily heal, the wound. Something of that sort could be happening to the Bahujan Samajwadi Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition in Uttar Pradesh. Both parties are loath to let go of each other, however exasperated UP’s BJP unit might be with Ms Mayavati’s domineering style. Elections to the Lok Sabha and the state’s local bodies are too close to risk a breakdown in the partnership. But the UP chief minister pushed it close to the brink this time, by demanding the resignation of the Union tourism and culture minister, Mr Jagmohan, claiming that he was using the Taj corridor controversy to “tarnish” Ms Mayavati’s image. There is possibly enough dirt waiting to be dug up by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the project to begrime quite a number of people’s images. It is no wonder, therefore, that Ms Mayavati had an intricate conspiracy theory involving Mr Jagmohan to produce before the prime minister. But this time it did not work. The BJP high command, often to the consternation of the state unit, has been markedly cautious with the chief minister, with Mr L.K. Advani’s presence at a BSP rally last year apparently sealing an understanding of live and let live. The boost that this rapport with the Union home minister might have given Ms Mayavati could have been merely a small addition to the enormous confidence she has in her large Dalit base and her success in having wooed even sections of the upper castes in the last elections. In any case, her ease with the BJP high command never did prevent her from continuing to play games with the intention of breaking up other legislative parties in a bid for majority status. There were some bad moments when she began to lose legislators from her coalition and supporting parties, but came through that with her usual combination of threats and bribes and élan. The Jagmohan hoo-ha seems to be simply another bid for advantage gone wrong.
At least that is what the BJP unit in UP feels. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s outright rejection of Ms Mayavati’s demand — professedly with no quid pro quo attached — may have put the BSP in a spot at the moment, and the wary attitude that the BJP has displayed may have shaken the chief minister a little. But there is no reason to trust her, according to battle-weary BJP leaders in UP. To cover her retreat, Ms Mayavati has said that she would not play into the opposition’s hands, since all those parties want is to see the coalition break up. But there is no doubt that her move, whatever its purpose, was badly timed, and can perhaps be read as a rare sign of insecurity.