The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mulayam fuels BJP’s hope

New Delhi, Oct. 27: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has cheered up the BJP by saying his Samajwadi Party would decide on backing a Congress-led Centre only after the general elections next year.

Though BJP sources declined to go on record, they were clear that Mulayam Singh’s statement in Lucknow implied three things.

First, it ruled out a Congress-Samajwadi pre-poll alliance in Uttar Pradesh, which the BJP feared as it would have consolidated the 16 per cent Muslim vote.

Second, the Congress on its own would gain nothing in the state, which would affect its overall tally.

Third, Mulayam Singh would keep his options open vis-a-vis the NDA coalition.

The last inference was based on his reaction to a question on the coalescence of “secular” forces. “It has to be seen who is secular,” he had said.

“Read in tandem with what he said in Jamshedpur, it is significant,” a BJP source said. At the Samajwadi national executive in Jamshedpur last month, Mulayam Singh had said his party would have no problems allying with the BJP if it gave up the demands for a Ram temple, abrogation of Article 370 and a common civil code.

“We have already declared that we will fight the next elections as a coalition on a common minimum programme, which necessarily means keeping these three contentious issues out. So then the Samajwadi can decide whether we are secular or not,” a source said.

The BJP, keenly following the likely regrouping of the “Third Front”, does not consider an innocuous coincidence Mulayam Singh’s old socialist links with NDA convener George Fernandes and his perceptible change in equation with arch enemy, the BJP.

Fernandes’ efforts to reunite the Janata parivar and buttress the union with new allies reportedly have the blessings of the Prime Minister. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is keen to have a solid block of MPs in the NDA apart from the BJP, instead of two-dozen splinter parties.

NDA sources said Fernandes was “seriously” looking at the Samajwadi and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party as new additions.

They added that if in 1998 Fernandes “succeeded” in prevailing upon Mulayam Singh, Pawar and Chandra Shekhar to scuttle Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s rise to the country’s top job, this time his mandate is to rope them into the BJP-led coalition.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan is in constant touch with the chief minister, sources said. “Even if our numbers are reduced in UP, we are counting on Mulayam to bring us 20 or 25 MPs,” a source said.

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