The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heartland hotshots play alliance hardball

New Delhi, Jan. 16: Uttar Pradesh was shrouded in alliance-making enigma today when Mayavati acted pricey towards the Congress and Mulayam Singh Yadav played footsie with the BJP.

After a meeting of the Bahujan Samaj Party’s national executive, Mayavati said she would decide whether to be a part of the proposed anti-BJP front only after the election dates were announced.

It is believed that Mayavati insisted on the Congress withdrawing its support to the Mulayam Singh government for her to join an alliance.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister, meanwhile, paid a visit to agriculture minister Rajnath Singh, a BJP leader from the heartland state, fuelling speculation about a possible post-poll understanding.

Rajnath Singh gave a patient hearing to Mulayam Singh’s demand for relaxing conditions of a package announced for sugarcane farmers.

Signalling the BJP’s eagerness to not displease Mulayam Singh, Rajnath Singh rushed to finance minister Jaswant Singh, who has to agree to make the changes.

Mayavati took pains to drive home the point that Mulayam Singh has a clandestine understanding with the BJP.

Alleging that the Samajwadi Party would even join the NDA coalition after the elections, she said the Mulayam Singh government had not replaced Assembly Speaker Kesrinath Tripathy, who belongs to the BJP.

“This shows the understanding between them,” she said.

Mayavati, however, denied she had put forth any condition for the Congress to withdraw support to Mulayam Singh. She said the decision on an alliance would be guided purely by the interests of the “Bahujan Samaj”.

The national executive of the party authorised her to decide on the alliance.

She categorically ruled out tying up with the BJP. “There is no question of going with the BJP,” Mayavati said.

Congress sources said the party is considering her demand to withdraw support to Mulayam Singh. Uttar Pradesh Congress president Jagadambika Pal, the sources said, feels the same way.

Mayavati is also bargaining with the Congress over seats. She wants the Congress to concede her the seats the BSP won and those where the party came second in the 1999 elections, the sources said.

Another important consideration that could be on her mind is the Taj corridor case, where allegations of corruption have been levelled against her erstwhile government in Uttar Pradesh.

The CBI, which is investigating the case, told the Supreme Court today that it had time until January 23 to file the status report the judges had sought.

The court had asked the CBI to file an FIR against Mayavati and some officials. So far, it has not even submitted a preliminary inquiry report to the court.

An indication of the CBI’s progress or otherwise in the case will be as eagerly awaited as Mayavati’s alliance decision.


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