A pragmatist, Ms Mayavati evidently knows how not to spoil her own birthday party. Her ruling out of a pre-poll alliance with either the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party thus does not surprise. She had already made up her mind to stay away from the Congress by the beginning of last year, and subsequent developments must have convinced her of the judiciousness of her decision. She could not have taken kindly to the re-opening of the Taj corridor case against her. Besides, there is the risible campaign of the party in Uttar Pradesh to remove all residual doubts. And past experience cautioned where the BJP was concerned. Ms Mayavati’s decision to go it alone is not a unique choice. Any party with an iota of self-confidence would be similarly disposed. The BJP has foregone a pre-electoral alliance as well. It has presented its disquieting experience in such matters for making such a choice. But its judgment is driven by the same pragmatism that informs Ms Mayavati’s. The leaders of the Hindi hinterland know that the crown will go to whoever is able to muster the requisite numbers in the assembly. And in this game of smart calculations, they allow neither ideology nor ethics to cloud their judgment. Ms Mayavati has abundantly shown, through the co-option of upper-caste players in her Dalit politics, how the rules of the game can be altered to meet expediency. But by doing so, she has merely improved on the performances of many of her colleagues.
If Ms Mayavati is to be castigated for her politics of opportunism, so should Messrs Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ajit Singh. Both — bearers of the legacies of Ram Manohar Lohia and Charan Singh respectively — have failed to look beyond their nose to live up to the larger commitments of caste and class welfare. Like the others, both are now trying to figure out how to poach on the votebanks of contending parties in order to make up the right numbers. If the Samajwadi Party now seems intent on organizing one conference after another of the Chaks, Kurmis, Vaishes or Pasis, it is not to address their deprivation. If the Rashtriya Lok Dal now gets together with the Jan Morcha, it is not for an agricultural revolution. They are all working towards that magic number, which will guarantee them the power and pelf of office. Why compromise such possibilities by entering into pre-electoral commitments'