| BJP supporters carry cutouts of AB Vajpayee and LK Advani in Ahmedabad. (Reuters)
Chakia (Allahabad), April 16: Stung by persistent insinuations about a potential post-electoral understanding with the BJP and now Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s direct reference to such a possibility, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav today castigated Vajpayee for indulging in “low-level politicking”.
Vajpayee had suggested on television yesterday that there were no major ideological differences between the BJP and Mulayam Singh’s party. Today, it was Mulayam Singh’s day to have his say.
“If our ideologies are the same, then let Atalji declare publicly that his party is withdrawing the Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi issues; let the BJP demand the reconstruction of the destroyed mosque at the same site at Ayodhya; let them support Article 370 in Kashmir and let them not try and interfere with Muslim personal law,” Mulayam Singh demanded in a series of campaign meetings today.
Not content with this, he took the battle deep into the “Hindutva” territory by targeting even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He demanded that before claiming similarities with his party, the BJP should ensure that the “Saraswati Shishu Mandir schools run by the RSS do not teach children to hate Muslims and that there is no hate-mongering at the daily RSS shakhas (branch meetings)”.
He warned the voters to be wary of the “clever ploys” of the BJP. “They are trying to encircle us like Abhimanyu in the Mahabharat. But come the polling day, unlike Abhimanyu, with your support, we will overcome all their stratagems,” he declared.
In campaign meetings held in villages across Phulpur, Allahabad, Chail and Pratapgarh Lok Sabha constituencies, Mulayam Singh asked the crowds: “If our ideologies were the same, would I have ordered police firing on their (BJP’s) supporters in 1990' If there were no differences in our worldviews, then would they have tried to forcibly march on Ayodhya when I was the chief minister' Why do they raise the Ram temple issue only when I am in power at Lucknow' Were they sleeping for the last five-and-half years'” The crowd cheered him wildly.
Mulayam Singh said that while he respected Vajpayee as the Prime Minister, he had never imagined that “Atalji would indulge in such low-level politicking (tikram) considering that he always preaches high-mindedness to others”.
To further distance himself from the BJP, Mulayam Singh singled out .K. Advani for promising the dismissal of his government within three months if the BJP returned to power at the Centre. He told cheering crowds: “Should they try this, I am sure you will give them a fitting reply.”
Mocking Advani’s Bharat Uday yatra, Mulayam Singh made the crowds laugh, saying: “If India is shining and everyone is feeling good, then Advani should have also felt good and stayed at home. Why did he have to travel the length and breadth of the country in this heat to tell people that India was shining' Only those people who have become maalamal (rich) are telling each other that India is shining.”
Mulayam Singh showed himself to be a master of manipulating the mood of the voters. In his short but pithy speeches, he took them through many emotional ups and downs. Thus he asked them: “How many of you have computers' None' The BJP has made computers cheap. Air-conditioners have also become cheaper. Do any of you have an air-conditioner at home' Air-conditioned cars have also become cheaper.” The crowd tittered.
Then he brought them down to the reality that affects them. “Do you know what has become expensive' Diesel, kerosene, cycles, cycle rickshaws and medicines have become dearer. Everything that a farmer, a villager and a poor man needs,” he explained.
Mulayam Singh recounted the development and employment generation undertaken in the first three months of his government, the provision of free education for all irrespective of caste till class XII, attacked the Bahujan Samaj Party government for trying to arrest him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and promised to make Uttar Pradesh a surplus power generating state. His constant attempt was to show that his party did not have a sectarian appeal but stood for development encompassing all castes and professions.
He cited press reports, which referred to him as the “kingmaker” if not the future Prime Minister. He said: “This is being said when I am not even ready (for such a role). But the game at Delhi will change if you send my party to Delhi in greater strength — whichever government is formed will have to seek our help.”
Taking another dig at the BJP, Mulayam Singh said: “Atalji tells the truth when he says this is his last election. He also says that his successor has been decided. But the fact is that after him looms a major leadership crisis in the BJP. That is why everyone is focused on the performance of the Samajwadi Party.”
Mulayam Singh drew huge crowds in the rural areas. None of his meetings today was in cities or towns — they were all in rural interiors. Even in the blistering heat, when temperatures were in the range of 42 to 43 degrees Celsius, none of his meetings had less than 15,000 to 20,000 people — mostly people in their 20s and 30s and extremely responsive.