The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mulayam hunt for sweetener
- Samajwadi hands Centre wish list, Opposition leader ridicules BJP’s age ‘maya jaal’

New Delhi, Jan. 16: Mulayam Singh Yadav called on Rajnath Singh today, the half-hour meeting renewing speculation that the Samajwadi Party might oblige the BJP with post-poll support to the National Democratic Alliance.

While the Uttar Pradesh chief minister stressed that there would be no political understanding with the BJP before the elections, a softener the Centre may offer him was a pointer towards a realignment after the Lok Sabha elections.

Mulayam Singh impressed on Rajnath that the Centre’s recent package to sugarcane farmers was “unacceptable” for three reasons, according to Samajwadi sources. It provided for just a one-term loan, he said; interest was charged and the package took away the state government’s right to recommend an advisory price for cane procurement. The government would have to abide by the statutory minimum price fixed by the Centre, the chief minister said.

Rajnath reportedly approached finance minister Jaswant Singh soon after the meeting to find out if these conditions could be waived and a fresh package unveiled.

Mulayam Singh also asked Rajnath to use his good offices to withdraw the charges under the anti-terrorism legislation against controversial MLA Raja Bhaiyya and his family members, all of who are in jail. To appear “objective”, the chief minister also included MDMK leader Vaiko — who is jailed in Tamil Nadu — in his demand.

BJP and Samajwadi sources said Raja Bhaiyya apart, Rajnath and Mulayam Singh have a common interest in preventing Kalyan Singh from returning to the BJP. Rajnath, who had to wait for Kalyan to leave the BJP to come into his own, is reportedly against his return. He has managed to enlist the support of other Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders such as Kalraj Mishra and Vinay Katiyar. Sources said their “gang-up” is the main reason that Kalyan’s “homecoming” has been stalled.

The chief minister is worried that Kalyan’s comeback will give the BJP the leg-up it requires in the state and eat into his backward-caste base. Kalyan’s tacit support to the Samajwadi in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls was instrumental in boosting the latter’s tally to 29. BJP sources say a Congress-Bahujan Samaj Party tie-up and Kalyan’s exit from the Samajwadi-led coalition might reduce Mulayam Singh’s tally.

Samajwadi sources are certain that a pre-poll pact, tacit or otherwise, with the BJP is “impossible”, but are less certain on a post-poll arrangement. They admit their party will not win a single seat on the strength of just Yadav (about 9 per cent) and Thakur (about 5 per cent) votes. The 16 per cent Muslim vote is critical to the Samajwadi’s success, they said.

They add that a post-poll understanding with the ruling coalition at the Centre would not cause a flight of Muslim votes, citing the example of the Telugu Desam Party. Despite supporting the BJP coalition from outside in 1998, the party retained its minority base in the next elections, the sources said.

“Something like that is feasible. After all, Mulayam Singh is going to administer Uttar Pradesh and he can ensure that minorities are safe and well looked after. At the same time, a friendly dispensation at the Centre is important to get funds and schemes sanctioned,” explained a source.

BJP sources said a prime consideration for them when they “covertly” backed the formation of a Samajwadi coalition in Uttar Pradesh was ensuring that Mulayam Singh returned with a chunk of MPs who would then support the NDA. In the absence of new allies and the departure of old ones, the Samajwadi had become a focal point of the BJP’s post-poll calculations.

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