Blow to Bihar's grand alliance: the real reasons behind Mulayam's exit
- Mulayam Singh Yadav pulled out of the Lalu-Nitish-Congress grand alliance in Bihar on 3 September
- This also put paid to the Janata Parivar - a proposed merger of the SP, RJD, JD(U) and others
- It also proved that the BJP was right to say that the grand alliance was fragile
- Mulayam supposedly did not want to be seen as a Congress ally
- With a close election on the cards, he also didn\'t want to be defeated by Modi and the BJP
- The outcome of the Bihar election would have had little bearing on the SP in its home state of UP
- Mulayam has been going soft on the BJP ever since the monsoon session of Parliament
- A CBI probe into a huge corruption case in UP has the SP supremo and other leaders sweating
The Janata Parivar was a notion that got many politically-inclined people excited. After all, it was to be a reunion of offshoots of Jayaprakash Narayan's popular movement, which would come together to oppose the BJP.
But on 3 September, Mulayam Singh Yadav dealt a death blow to the notion of the Janata Parivar, when he took his Samajwadi Party out of the grand alliance with Lalu Yadav's RJD, Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and the Congress in Bihar.
With the assembly elections in Bihar just around the corner, this is the biggest blow the grand alliance could have received. After all, the key point the BJP and the NDA have been raising against the grand alliance is its inherent fragility. And Mulayam has proved it.
In terms of its party structure, reach and the number of votes and seats it garners, the Samajwadi Party was to be the biggest partner in the Janata Parivar. The source of its power, obviously, is the sheer numbers in its prime state, Uttar Pradesh.
In addition, the party has always claimed to follow the path of socialism shown by Ram Manohar Lohiya the most closely. And one of its greatest assets is its massive appeal to Muslims.
Mulayam extracted the greatest possible political mileage out of opening fire on the RSS's karsevaks when he was chief minister during the Ram Mandir movement in 1990.
The question arises that is Mulayam still a well-wisher of Muslims? If yes, then why has he decided to quit the alliance of secular parties when the Bihar election is set to be a close battle between it and the BJP-led NDA?
The reasons for Mulayam's changing tone
Muslims and Yadavs have traditionally helped Mulayam's family come to power in UP. But nowadays, in order to remain in power, one needs to have a clean record - a conviction in court can automatically disqualify one from the legislature.
For the last few months, Mulayam and his cohorts in the SP have been haunted by a fear of the CBI and other central agencies which fall under the ambit of the PMO or the Home ministry.
The recent Yadav Singh disproportionate assets case in Noida is one of the prime reasons why the SP has toned down its hostility towards the BJP. On 6 August, at a party event, Mulayam reportedly said that the CBI was misused by the previous governments at the Centre, and even Narendra Modi's government was doing the same.
Koushal Kishor Mishra, head of the political science department at the Banaras Hindu University, told Catch, "The Yadav Singh issue is the one due to which the Samajwadi Party is avoiding a direct confrontation with the BJP."
Singh, a state government official, has been arrested on charges of corruption and, according to Mishra, he may expose the names of Samajwadi Party leaders who were his cohorts.
The very next day, the Supreme Court rejected the UP government's appeal against the high court order which asked for a CBI probe. This was a big setback for Mulayam's family, and forced the SP supremo to sing a different tune during the monsoon session of Parliament.
UP govt official Yadav Singh has been arrested for corruption. He may name SP leaders as his cohorts
Mulayam surprised the entire opposition by taking a completely different line in the house on the protests against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. He said, "Enough is enough... We will not back you if you keep protesting."
The PM himself thanked Mulayam at a BJP parliamentary party meeting, according to minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
Insiders say Mulayam himself was hobnobbing with BJP leaders during the last few days of the session, and both were taking soft positions against each other.
Mulayam and his family's inherent fear of the CBI may also have been the reason why he and his relative, Rajya Sabha MP Ram Gopal Yadav, were the first to take a stance in Sushma's favour after her help to Lalit Modi came to light on 14 June.
The key meeting
Even when it came to the Janata Parivar, Mulayam, unlike the other leaders, was passive to the idea. There was constant external pressure on him to avoid the merger of the parties into one unit.
Sources say that if the inquiry into the Yadav Singh case is conducted properly, many leaders, including SP MPs, would be chargesheeted. This is why there is a desperation to avoid taking political and ideological stands.
Mulayam didn't go for the Swabhiman rally in Patna on 30 August. He sent his brother Shivpal instead. Shivpal also met the party's leaders in the state and agreed to their demand of more seats in the grand alliance's seat-sharing arrangement.
Mulayam doesn't want an alliance with the Congress, nor does he want to risk losing to Modi and BJP
Just before the announcement of the SP's exit from the alliance, sources say Ram Gopal Yadav had a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah on 1 September. The situation in Bihar was the key issue discussed in this closed-door meeting. It is clear that this meeting could've had a significant bearing on the decision to walk out of the alliance.
After the announcement, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav also met Mulayam, but nothing was resolved. It seems the SP will stick to its position. But even if it doesn't, the damage to the grand alliance may have already been done. The NDA has got just the ammunition it needed to attack the alliance for being a 'loose knot'.
Incidentally, the fear of the CBI is even said to have haunted Lalu for several weeks, before he finally decided to join hands with his staunch rival Nitish. The opposition from within his own party weighed heavy on his mind, but with political survival at stake, Lalu ended up joining hands with Nitish.
The prospect of losing to Modi
It's not as though the SP is a major player in Bihar. In the February 2005 elections, it received 2.5% of the vote and sent four MLAs to the 243-member assembly. However, owing to a hung assembly, the state went to polls again eight months later, and the SP's presence was reduced to two MLAs
In 2010, the SP contested on 146 seats and did not win a single one. In fact, its vote percentage dropped to 0.55, and many candidates lost their deposits.
Mulayam knows that the party possibly won't fare any better in the coming elections. But Bihar politics are nowhere near the prime concern for the SP. It's no loss even if it doesn't get a single seat. But the CBI represents a clear and present danger, which it needs to address.
Additionally, if the grand alliance fails to come to power, Mulayam will have a defeated face to show to the public of Uttar Pradesh in the 2017 assembly election. The party wants to avoid giving out the message of having been defeated by Modi and the BJP.
BHU's Prof Mishra says, "Mulayam had nothing to gain or lose with the alliance in Bihar. There was no point continuing with the alliance, nor does he lose anything by walking out of it. His base is UP. A seat or two in Bihar or any other state hardly matters to him."
He also points to the Congress's presence in the alliance as a reason for Mulayam's U-turn. "The Samajwadi Party does not want to be seen as an ally of the Congress. In a recent rally in Patna, Congress president Sonia Gandhi shared the dais with Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar. Mulayam wants to keeps himself away from the Congress Party," he said.
(With inputs from Rohit Ghosh)