The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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...and the race for numbers...
...with heartland action...

New Delhi, Dec. 31: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is keeping his alliance options open despite pressure from CPM veteran H.S. Surjeet to throw in his lot with anti-NDA groups.

At the end of a series of meetings — in which he met the CPM general secretary this morning and later Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the central coalition’s convener, George Fernandes — the Uttar Pradesh chief minister was his usual ambivalent self.

The Samajwadi leader said he discussed with Vajpayee development projects in his state as well as poll prospects in the heartland and refused to commit allegiance to any front. “The Samajwadi Party is not going to join any front, but will extend issue-based support,” he said. The indication was any decision will be taken only after the elections are over and the results are out.

He also said a third front would emerge. A couple of months ago, Mulayam Singh and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had tested the ground for the formation of a third front that would comprise a section of the NDA led by Fernandes, the NCP and the Samajwadi.

His former mentor, Surjeet, seemed to be the only one convinced about Mulayam Singh’s resolve to fight the BJP. “He is with us on the issue of defeating the BJP,” the CPM leader said, trying to scotch speculation that the Samajwadi leader was veering towards the saffron camp.

After his meeting with the Samajwadi leader, Surjeet announced there would be two fronts — one led by the Congress and the other by Left and “like-minded” third front leaders.

Surjeet’s call for more than one front seems to have been motivated by two considerations. First, Mulayam Singh would not have to be a part of a Congress-led front and the Left, too, would have the space to fight the Congress in Bengal, Kerala and Tripura where they are traditional adversaries.

The Congress, on its part, avoided a direct comment on Mulayam Singh’s statement that his party would not join any front that includes the BJP or the Bahujan Samaj Party, his main rival in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress seems to prefer the BSP to the Samajwadi as, in its perception, the Dalit outfit would be a more useful ally in Hindi belt states though the Samajwadi could be a better bet in Uttar Pradesh.

Senior Congress leaders said the BSP’s company could check their party’s weakening hold on Scheduled Castes.

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