The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani to roll, Mulayam melts

New Delhi, March 8: Peace held its ground in Varanasi today but politics was in full play.

If Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh discovered the virtue of sagacity in Sonia Gandhi and showed little hesitation in proclaiming so, L.K. Advani found in the blasts a chance to unsheath his favourite weapon: yatra.

Commenting on Sonia’s move to rush to Varanasi last night itself and her pledge to keep politics out, Mulayam said in the pilgrimage city: “She has taken a right decision to visit the spot immediately. Her proactive gesture was the need of the hour. I am happy to know that she has offered all assistance.”

Amar, who has been blaming the Congress for tapping his phone, said: “We completely agree with Soniaji. This issue should not be politicised.”

Mulayam has been trying to reclaim the secular centre-stage but, so far, his overtures had been rebuffed.

All political parties are expecting polarisation in the wake of the blasts, and Mulayam feels that any consolidation of secular forces can only help him.

Dogged by the tapping controversy, the adverse court ruling on his flock of BSP legislators and charges that his administration looked the other way when cartoon and anti-Bush protests spun out of control, a friendly Centre would not harm Mulayam’s interests.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Advani has declared the “National Integration Twin Yatra” to highlight the UPA government’s “minorityism and appeasement”. Advani, the original charioteer of Indian politics, will lead one yatra and BJP chief Rajnath Singh the other.

Some were quick to see a parallel between the objectives of Mulayam and Advani: rehabilitation. Mulayam at the secular high table and Advani into the sanctorum of the Sangh parivar, the RSS.

But sources said Advani’s seemingly unilateral announcement has caught the Sangh unawares. BJP leaders are unsure how actively the RSS will participate in Advani’s venture.

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