The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll-set Cong CMs wary of Mulayam

Raipur/Bhopal, Sept. 3: Chief ministers of Congress-ruled states which are going to polls in November have urged party chief Sonia Gandhi to go slow on the issue of letting party legislators join Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ministry in Uttar Pradesh.

Most of the 16 Congress MLAs are eager to join Mulayam Singh’s cabinet, but the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi have told Sonia their election campaign would be a lot easier if the Bahujan Samaj Party trains its gun solely on the BJP.

Such a scenario could be easily created if the Congress MLAs are told to wait till November, Digvijay Singh, Ajit Jogi, Ashok Gehlot and Shiela Dikshit have told Sonia, who has been authorised by the working committee to take a final decision on joining the ministry. Sonia has been consulting various sections, including chief ministers of these four states.

Sources close to these chief ministers said in their scheme of things, a tie-up or a tacit understanding with the BSP is not necessary. But given the Dalit vote composition in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the chief ministers are keen on a contest in which an enraged Mayavati would be campaigning, dubbing the BJP as her enemy number one.

In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, there are dozens of seats where Dalit votes could play a significant part. In fact, the BJP and BSP were inching closer to a tacit understanding in Madhya Pradesh before their alliance ended abruptly in Uttar Pradesh.

If Sonia goes according to the advice given by Digvijay, Jogi and Gehlot, Congress MLAs in Uttar Pradesh would have to wait till elections are over in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram.

Restless Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders have been calling up Digvijay and Jogi and advancing their line of argument. The MLAs are saying that if they are made to wait till November, they would lose their bargaining power, as Mulayam Singh would draft support from elsewhere. Pointing at fissures within the Uttar Pradesh unit of the BSP, some senior leaders have told Digvijay and Jogi that the Samajwadi Party chief would rustle up a majority if the Congress waits till November.

Moreover, they are concerned about the “spirit of the Shimla conclave”, where the central leadership toyed with the idea of coalition at the national level. Non-participation in the Mulayam Singh ministry, the MLAs, said would send “wrong signals” to a potential ally.

To Jogi, the Uttar Pradesh MLAs have been citing the “Bihar model”. If the 20-odd Congress MLAs could join the Rabri Devi government providing stability to the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led regime, why could the experiment not be repeated in Uttar Pradesh, a senior legislator asked Jogi.

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