Mulayam Singh Yadav’s anger against son Akhilesh’s decision to ally with Mayawati is understandable. It’s not just the shared history of bad blood between Mulayam and the BSP chief. It’s also the manner in which she’s making Akhilesh dance to her tune. It’s evident to all that she’s dominant partner in the equation. What Mayawati wants, Akhilesh makes sure she gets.
Mayawati shut the door on the Congress. And Akhilesh has had to accept it although he was quite keen to have an adjustment with the grand old party. Mayawati has extended the SP-BSP alliance to three states beyond UP: Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. The last one is a surprise because RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav has been in touch with Akhilesh for an understanding and even met with Mayawati recently. But the BSP supremo has other ideas, clearly.
Much to Akhilesh’s discomfiture, she did something similar with Om Prakash Rajbhar who heads the SuheldevBhartiyaSamaj Party. This party represents Rajbhar interests in eastern UP and is currently an ally of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. But Rajbhar has been rebellious and angry for some time and keeps threatening to walk out of the alliance.
He had opened a channel to Akhilesh and expressed interest in joining the SP-BSP alliance. He was asking for one or two seats.
Rajbhars are a small but influential caste in some areas. Akhilesh is believed to have tried to persuade Mayawati to include SBSP. But she put her foot down firmly. No more parties in the alliance, she told Akhilesh. And so the seat distribution was announced last week, without Rajbhar. A relieved BJP immediately rewarded the SBSP leader with a bungalow, hoping that would keep him happy and on its side.
This was not all. RLD bargained hard for three seats. Mayawati was prepared to concede only two to the Jat party, Charan Singh’s traditional seat of Baghpat and Muzzaffarnagar.
But Ajit Singh dug his heels in for Mathura as a third seat. Ultimately, Akhilesh stepped in to oblige. He gave up one seat from his quota of 38 to accommodate RLD.
Mayawati has got her wish. She has established herself the senior partner in the alliance because her BSP will contest 38 seats while Akhilesh’s SP will fight 37. No wonder Mulayam Singh rapped Akhilesh on the knuckles in public the other day.
The BJP is in a quandary in Delhi. Of its seven MPs, ground reports with the RSS indicate that only two are popular enough to get re-elected. They are Harsh Vardhan from ChandniChowk and Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi.
All the other five are distinctly unpopular with their voters, having done precious little in terms of connecting with people and developing their constituencies.
There is pressure on the BJP to deny these five tickets in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. But there are two problems. One is to find winnable replacements for them. This is not an easy task in a city where the BJP has let its organisation go the Congress way, into steep decline.
The other problem is more ticklish. The BJP can hardly bench its state unit president, Manoj Tiwari, by not giving him a ticket.
Playing big brother
The Congress just doesn’t seem to get it. It keeps trying to play big brother to the other opposition parties and take over. The latest example is its attempt to host the next Opposition meet on Congress territory in Mohali, Punjab.
It had been decided when opposition leaders last met at SharadPawar’s house on the closing day of the budget session of Parliament that they would get together on February 26 and 27 in Delhi. The Congress decided to change that and invited the leaders to Mohali where it could play host.
So confident was the Congress that it would succeed in pushing through its plan to sit at the head of the table at the next meeting that it booked hotels, made transportation arrangements and put together other necessary logistics.
It was left to Mamata Banerjee to pour cold water on Congress hopes of being big brother. She flatly refused to go to Mohali. And the excuse she gave was that she had scheduled the release of her books in Delhi on February 26 evening.
The books are Hindi and English translations of a book of verses she penned earlier in Bengali.
Interestingly, the book release function has not been formally announced. Nor have the invitation cards been issued. If she wanted to oblige the Congress, Mamata could have tweaked the dates.
Her refusal to go to Mohali was a clear and firm message to the Congress, that it should not try and dominate the Opposition. Is the grand old party listening?
BJP circles are buzzing with speculation about Amit Shah’s absence from the function at Parliament House for the unveiling of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s portrait in Central Hall.
The ceremony was attended by all BJP MPs and most opposition ones. So Shah’s absence was all the more marked.
The buzz is that he was in Gujarat on a special political mission. Party MPs are wondering about this. After all, the Modi government ordered a rush job on Vajpayee’s portrait so that it could be placed in Parliament before its tenure end. The unveiling ceremony was an important part of the government’s calendar of events.
Significantly, Shah led the arrangements for all functions connected with Vajpayee following the former prime minister’s death. He supervised the logistics for the cremation, the procession of the cortege through the streets of the Capital, the scattering of the ashes at 100 places in the country and so on. But he was not there for the final tribute in Parliament.