The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heartland heaves, political pulse races

Jan. 13: Uttar Pradesh began heating up in the countdown to the general elections with Mulayam Singh Yadav advising Sonia Gandhi against an alliance with Mayavati and the BJP claiming that his government would fall before March.

Stating that the Bahujan Samaj Party is no less an evil than the BJP, Mulayam Singh said in Lucknow that he would soon meet Sonia and dissuade her from aligning with Mayavati.

“If the Congress is serious in fighting fascist forces, it should not forge an alliance with (the) BSP, which is no lesser (an) evil than (the) BJP,” the Uttar Pradesh chief minister said.

Mulayam Singh, who has so far refused to join hands with the Congress amid whispers of the possibility of an understanding with the NDA, today ruled out any deal with the BJP.

“I cannot befriend my political foe. If the BJP becomes my friend, who will be my political enemy then'”

In his harshest criticism of the BJP since he assumed power in Uttar Pradesh, the chief minister said the BJP’s recent victory in three states had gone to its head and the party was under the false impression that it would sweep the coming polls.

The BJP, which had been trying to live down insinuations that it had facilitated Mulayam Singh’s coronation after Mayavati dumped the party, hit back in the evening.

“The coalition government will be short-lived. It will fall before March,” state BJP president Vinay Katiyar told reporters in Lucknow. “The law and order situation in the state is in tatters,” said Katiyar, who is cut up with the government for overturning an earlier regime’s decision to create more districts.

Mulayam Singh was non-committal on supporting Sonia as Prime Minister, saying a decision will be taken only after the elections.

“At this point of time, I am not in a position to comment. We will cross the bridge when it comes,” he said.

The chief minister said his party would not join any front and would extend only issue-based support.

In Delhi, a section of Congress leaders felt that the possibility of an alliance with the BSP has made Mulayam Singh jittery as he might lose Muslim votes, his party’s mainstay. He wants to create confusion and pre-empt the alliance, said a senior Congress leader.

The BSP described the chief minister’s statement as the desperate move of a man who is facing defeat.

Mulayam Singh’s advice came a day after Laloo Prasad Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief who is mediating on behalf of Sonia, called on Mayavati to impress on her the need to ally with the Congress to prevent a division of anti-BJP votes.

Mayavati will announce the BSP’s electoral strategy at the party’s national executive here on Friday.

Asked to comment on Mulayam Singh’s advice, Congress leader Salman Khurshid said: “I am glad he is concerned about the welfare of the Congress. I am pleased he has given the advice. (The) Congress president will make up her mind and take a decision. I hope Yadav has something substantive to offer.”

BSP spokesperson Sudhir Goel said “this (the advice) speaks volumes of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s desperation. He is facing certain defeat. He is afraid of defeat at the hands of the BSP”.

In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, the BSP polled 26 per cent of the votes and bagged 12 seats, while the Congress secured a little over 17 per cent of the votes and won nine constituencies.

In the 2001 Assembly polls, the Congress vote share declined to 6 per cent, but the BSP’s registered a slight increase. The Samajwadi picked up a little over 26 per cent.

BSP and Congress sources said if they forge an alliance, a large chunk of Muslim votes, crucial to the Samajwadi’s scheme of things, will shift to them.

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