FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK
When BJP leader L.K.Advani’srathyatra for the demolition of the Babri mosque was stopped under then Prime Minister V.P.Singh’s instructions by Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav went into a deep sulk. His grouse was that Singh had robbed him of the moment of glory deliberately, out of sheer jealousy and competition, and allowed the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief to gain mileage amongst the Muslims, the captive vote bank.
Mulayam Singh was not prepared to accept, or even listen, to Singh’s explanation that he was left with no choice as the yatra entered Bihar first, and had to be stopped. Singh repeatedly tried to make the UP Yadav see reason, by pointing out that he could not have allowed the yatra to move through a Janata Dal ruled state without challenge, and waited for it to enter UP before taking action.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridges of the two Yadavs since then. But for decades they did not speak with each other, the enmity preventing joint campaigns despite a demand from the ground. The Bihar Yadav told this writer many years ago, that he would never speak with Mulayam Singh who had stabbed in the back ever again. However the ‘never’ changed, and for the first time the two came together in a bid to unite the scattered Janata parivar, and fight the BJP together. The near decimation of both in their respective states hastened talks of a merger, but now with the Bihar Assembly elections around the corner Lalu Yadav is again, characteristically, playing hard to get. In fact both he and Mulayam Singh have ruled out a ‘merger’ on the grounds of electoral difficulties in adopting a new flag and new symbol at this point in time.
But the reasons, according to state politicians, are very different. And to understand this perhaps it might be important to list the commonalities—that are many—between the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Janata politics.
Both have been charged periodically with corruption, with the Bihar Yadav servicing time in jail. The Central Bureau of Investigation has been active against both.
Both have followed feudal, family based politics.
Both have never been in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party although the UP Yadav has often been accused, even by his supporters of working behind the scenes with the BJP. Fact finding teams saw a certain meshing of interests between the BJP and the Samajwadi party in the Muzaffarnagar communal violence just before the Lok Sabha elections, with the local impacted minorities alleging deep connivance.
Both have relied heavily on the Yadav and Muslim vote, with the last being addressed through sops and high voltage campaigns denouncing ‘communal forces.
And both have relied extensively on a point person outside their families—Mulayam Singh at one time on Amar Singh who almost created a division in the Samajwadi party on his count; and Lalu Yadav on Prem Gupta now who is credited with stopping the merger on account of corruption charges regarding coal blocks that are under investigation at this moment.
So while possible decimation is compelling Janata Dal (U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to offer fifty percent of the Assembly seats to the much smaller RJD; and prompting the Congress to open talks with the JD(U) for the Bihar polls, it has had no such impact on Lalu Yadav. He remains stuck to his demand that Nitish Kumar should not be the face of the state elections, a demand that will immediately reduce the number of seats for the proposed conglomerate and lead to a post-election bloody war for the top seat. He is proving to be rigid now, with the Janata Dal(U) willing to make all possible concessions—even to the point of giving up some of its sitting seats but, as sources within told The Citizen, not make this particular compromise “that will suit the BJP.” The sources said that Lalu Yadav was under pressure to break the alliance, and “we will try again but if this does not work, time is running out, then we will have to take a stand.”
In short after playing along for a while Lalu Yadav has stymied the efforts towards opposition unity, that was worrying the BJP in Bihar.
A report in a tabloid has just claimed that Mulayam Singh is looking to form a government with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. True or not, this report emanates from the widespread perception on the ground that the Samajwadi veteran has developed sufficiently close links with the BJP, as seen in levels of cooperation even in Parliament where the Opposition---despite its differences---has largely been united on issues against the government. The perception, as said earlier, gained perception after the Muzaffarnagar violence where the Akhilesh Yadav administration was unable to control the violence initially, and later provide adequate relief and rehabilitation to the hundreds displaced in the area. Mulayam Singh is currently opposed to the Janata re-union, refusing to adopt the common symbol necessary for a merger. For him the UP elections are over a year away, and in the short vision approach typical of the two Yadavs, this is a long time.
Both have developed into dinosaurs with a certain command over the vote bank that slipped dramatically in the Lok Sabha elections. Both, however, are masters at manipulating the minorities vote through scare tactics, and the bogey of the BJP that has worked to their advantage in the past. Muslims in both states point out that the two have done little to improve their lot when in power, and as a senior former politician from Bihar said, “while we know that we get swayed by their campaigns even now.”
In Bihar the BJP is keen to prevent a consolidation of the Muslim-Yadav vote bank iced with other backwards, Kurmis and perhaps even a sprinkling of Dalits and others. The Manjhi factor is being promoted to cut into the Dalit vote, and now Lalu Yadav has emerged with a ‘no alliance’ threat that will cut into the Muslim and Yadav vote bank to some extent, if not completely.
Clearly the two Yadavs of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, while becoming increasingly irrelevant with the people, know how to keep themselves in the tight arena of coalition politics.