Mulayam Singh dumps Nitish Kumar for Uttar Pradesh

‘Netaji’ has done it again and not quite unexpectedly. It was in the offing for long, ever since Mulayam Singh declined to appear in the Patna rally of the “grand alliance” or the Maha-Gathbandhan, as it is called — between the JD (U), the RJD, the Congress and his Samajwadi Party. It seems the SP supremo is once again repeating his tried and successfully tested tactics with the same precision, that he had earlier staged against the firebrand Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister — Ms. Mamata Banerjee. Of course, the context and related pressures were different then as seen from Delhi’s end. The “durbars” in Delhi, in the meantime, have certainly changed but not the contents of important files, especially those in the possession of the CBI and such like agencies.

Sadly, no lessons seem to have been learnt by the other leaders from the Mamata episode. This time the Chief Minister of Mamata’s bordering State is the target. While both very smart politicians, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav, may have known or perhaps sensed what was likely to emerge from Lucknow, they failed to pre-empt the damage. Janata Parivar appears to be jittery and on the verge of a collapse, before even taking some elementary concrete shape. The damage caused to the sky-rocketing confidence of Nitish Kumar in his “super-package for Modi-package” bid is going to be irreparable. The reasons offered by Mulayam Singh for pulling out from the grand alliance, and to go alone in Bihar, do not seem convincing. There is surely more than what meets the eye. It has certainly not gone unnoticed that there have been meetings between the BJP President Amit Shah and the SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav before the SP announcing its decision to quit the alliance.

The assembly polls of the country’s largest State Uttar Pradesh are scheduled to be held sometime in 2017. The Bihar poll results will have a direct bearing in turn on Uttar Pradesh and this reality has not escaped any of the players involved in the political game. The SP leader seems to still be nursing a grudge of not becoming what Narendra Modi became — the Prime Minister of India. The SP supremo is said to have stated recently that while he became the Defence Minister he narrowly missed the post of Prime Minister. Therefore it can be well understood that Mulayam has much greater stakes in Uttar Pradesh than winning or losing a few seats in Bihar. It must have been a part of his long-term strategy, envisioning that if the SP is not a part of the Nitish-Lalu-Sonia alliance, and yet contests the polls in Bihar, there will be division of Yadav and backward class votes; which will only benefit the BJP. Little surprise then that Mulayam’s party has decided to put up candidates in all 243 constituencies of Bihar. The party had contested on only 146 seats in the 2010 polls but failed to bag even a single seat.

If the last Lok Sabha poll results are any evidence of the Samajwadi Party’s standing in UP, Mulayam is faced with a steep uphill task — to fulfill his stated ambition“…the forth coming election is crucial and we want that the SP forms the government again.” But with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) maintaining its vote bank intact and having also consolidated its position further, backed by the weaknesses of Akhilesh Yadav’s unpopular governance, dangers are rife and word spread, that Mulayam is only indirectly helping the BJP come to power in Bihar. This may cost the SP dearly on account of its minority vote bank in UP. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul leader Asaduddin Owaisi has already announced his party’s decision to contest the assembly elections in both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This may further come to the aid of the NDA, as is being alleged.

Confusing the Bihar poll scene even further, the Left parties have also ​in the meantime, announced that they were joining hands to fight the Bihar polls against the BJP-led NDA and also the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance of the JD(U) – RJD-Congress. The alliance of the six left parties has vowed to defeat both. On the other hand, allegations have already surfaced that Trinamool Congress in West Bengal is speaking in the same voice as the BJP.

​It is not only a question of Mulayam Singh’s contesting alone in Bihar, exiting the grand-alliance on the flimsy pretexts of having being given only five seats and of Nitish Kumar inviting Sonia Gandhi to the Patna rally. It goes without saying that Mulayam Singh had during the UPA regime established a cozy relationship with Delhi similar to what is being witnessed today with regard to the Modi Government.​Therefore, the larger question from the debate that emerges is what would ultimately happen to the cause of effecting unity among all the opposition parties for which the Bihar polls had presented an opportunity?

Mulayam Singh can well afford taking the calculated risk of walking out of the alliance in Bihar, for the simple reason that Nitish Kumar does not have a major political strength of his own nor any solid vote bank to support, much less, dictate terms. Therefore, after the break-up of the alliance between the JD(U) and the NDA, Nitish Kumar had to reach out to Lalu Yadav for help, despite knowing fully well that RJD over the years had not only lost support among the masses but also had become unpopular. Nitish Kumar in desperation also sought support from Arvind Kejriwal but the Chief Minister of Bihar could ill-afford taking any risk of contesting alone as was done by the Aam Aadmi Party leader in Delhi. Lastly, it would remain to be seen whether the RJD supporters do ultimately vote for the JD (U) candidates or whether they go with the contestants that will be put up by Mulayam Singh’s party. Therefore, in the prevailing situation post- Mulayam Singh Yadav’s​ break up with Nitish, it would be a miracle if the JD(U) – RJD-Congress combine can even attempt to force the NDA to compromise with a hung assembly. Mulayam Singh has done his job. How would Nitish retaliate, remains to be seen.