Aug. 25: Mayavati today spooned out the “political spice” she had promised overnight, abandoning the uneasy partnership with the BJP and triggering a chain of events that could toss up a new salad of alliances in the country.
As the Bahujan Samaj Party-BJP coalition collapsed after ruling Uttar Pradesh for 15 months, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party sent signals that it is ready to step in.
“The Samajwadi Party is the single largest party in the Assembly. Other Opposition parties are supporting us. Therefore, the governor should invite us to form the government,” state general secretary Shivpal Singh Yadav said.
Asked if the Samajwadi would stake claim, Yadav said it would be decided at the party’s parliamentary board meeting to be held in the next two or three days.
Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri now holds the key as his recommendation will decide whether the state will go to polls soon or whether it will witness another round of political upheaval that will throw up new equations. No combination is being ruled out and almost every one is being considered somebody’s prospective ally (See chart).
The heartland upheaval is also expected to provide a new impetus to the Opposition’s efforts to cobble together an anti-NDA alliance in the run-up to the Assembly polls later this year and the general elections next year.
The end of the BSP-BJP alliance came when chief minister Mayavati told her cabinet this morning that she had decided to recommend dissolution of the Assembly and fresh elections.
But BJP ministers Lalji Tandon and others in the cabinet claimed that their party had already withdrawn support before Mayavati could reach Shastri with her recommendation.
Tandon and senior BJP leaders had rushed to Raj Bhavan to ensure that Shastri did not accept any recommendation from Mayavati without hearing them out. The state unit has demanded her dismissal.
Shastri seemed to be playing the BJP game when he told reporters tonight “he was seeking legal opinion” as Mayavati’s recommendations had come after the BJP had communicated the withdrawal of support.
Mayavati described this as “politics of deceit”. “If the BJP had withdrawn support before, why were its ministers attending the cabinet'” the infuriated BSP leader asked before despatching a 30-page chargesheet to the Prime Minister.
The Mumbai blasts and absence of several leaders from Delhi have forced the BJP central leadership to decide to take up the Uttar Pradesh tangle tomorrow morning, when the party’s apex decision-making body, its parliamentary board, will meet at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence.
Sources said while the BJP leadership views central rule as an “ideal” option, an alternative government led by the Samajwadi may not be a “bad” second choice.
The only problem was that the Samajwadi could poach on BJP legislators for the numbers required to reach a simple majority.
If the BJP kept the cards close to its chest, others send more forthright signal, though couched in political jargon. The Congress said a “secular alternative” should be ” allowed to take over. The party was loathe to name it choice but said the “leader of the largest party” (Mulayam Singh) usually stakes claim in such circumstances.
Former chief minister Kalyan Singh, who left the BJP and has four legislators in the Assembly, met the Governor tonight. Even his name is being talked about as a dark horse but sources claimed that he requested the Governor to invite Mulayam Singh.
Mayavati, too, send feelers to both Mulayam Singh – with who she shares one of the most rancorous relationships in Indian politics – and the Congress. The chief minister said she is willing to “forgive” the Samajwadi leader if he offered a public apology for the infamous state guest house case of 1996. Mayavati had claimed that she was attacked by Mulayam Singh’s supporters and the case is still in court.
“I can also forgive Congress if it apologises for the mistakes committed by its leaders against the Bahujan Samaj in the past and have a rethink of adjusting with the BJP if it expels (Union agriculture minister) Rajnath Singh who had been spewing venom against me,” she said.
The controversy over the Taj corridor project is being seen as the immediate provocation for Mayavati to dump the BJP but the odds were stacked against the alliance since its birth with both the parties pursing clashing constituencies and agendas.
Mayavati had given a hint of her intention yesterday when she told reporters to expect “spicy news” during the BSP workers’ national conventionin Lucknow today.
Today, the chief minister, while presiding over the cabinet meeting, suddenly began to read from the text of the letter which she later submitted to the governor.
Tandon and other BJP ministers tried to object, but Mayavati kept reading. The BJP ministers had already signed on blank papers at the beginning of the meeting and Mayavati reminded them that they must bear collective responsibility for all decisions.
“The cabinet has decided that the present House should be dissolved with immediate effect. The cabinet recommends the governor for the dissolution under Section 174 (2b) of the Constitution and arrangement should be made for election of the new House,” she said.
The recommendation thus became part of the cabinet’s decisions, duly signed by the BJP ministers. Mayavati underlined this while talking to reporters at Raj Bhavan after meeting Shastri. Tandon later claimed he had handed over the letter withdrawing support to the governor just before Mayavati met him.
Shastri told reporters he had received two letters — one from the leader of the BJP legislature party withdrawing support and the other from the chief minister recommending dissolution of the Assembly. “I will examine both the letters and take an appropriate decision in due course of time,” he said.
On its part, the Election Commission denied earlier reports that said it was not prepared to conduct polls in Uttar Pradesh in November-December.