Mulayam Singh Yadav – The fulcrum of Third Front?
The father of modern political theory, Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, once said – “Men rise from one ambition to another; first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.”
Much in the same manner, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has gone into the attack mode vis-à-vis the Congress party at the Centre over the past few days. On the one hand he said that the reputation of the Congress party has been ‘tainted’ by a number of scams while on the other, he predicted that General Elections could take place before 2014.
Remember, Mulayam is supporting the Congress from outside and the two Ms of UP politics (the other being Mayawati) have always bailed the Congress out in times of crisis. For example, the SP MPs saved the government in the July 22, 2008 trust vote over the Indo-US nuclear deal.
And very recently, Mulayam ultimately backed the UPA Presidential candidate, Pranab Mukherjee after initially supporting the candidates of Mamata Banerjee and rejecting the choice of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
But what he did was not out of charity. He has the disproportionate assets cases hanging over him like the sword of Damocles and the Congress has used the CBI to the hilt to extract its pound of flesh. Thus, Mulayam first secured himself against attack a.k.a. Machiavelli by supporting the Congress as and when needed and now knowing that the Congress is on a sticky wicket, he has decided to go for the kill with an eye on the Prime Minister’s chair - if not the PM then at least he would want to be the kingmaker. If he and his motley group can come to power at the Centre, then all the cases that he is being chased with could be consigned to the cold storage.
So, when Mulayam grandly stated that his party was ready to take up a larger national role and that the Congress had no ‘future’ and was ‘directionless’, he was simply stating the obvious and something that political observers of this country know. Having successfully guided his son Akhilesh Yadav to the Chief Minister’s chair in UP, the wily politician from the Hindi heartland can now focus his attention and energies to grab the hot seat in Delhi.
Mulayam knows that this may well be his last chance to go all out to be the leader of the more than a billion population of this country. After all he is an aging politician and if not 2014, then the next time around would be too late with talks of his failing health. Even though he has ruled himself out as the PM candidate and said that no discussions were underway for the formation of a Third Front and that same would take place only after the polls, one is not so sure of the same.
However, if one can read between lines then he did quip – “We will surprise everyone with the number of seats we will win in 2014 polls. When Deve Gowda-led JDS can lead the government then SP also can.”
This is not the first time that Mulayam has publically taken on the Congress party and embarrassed it. Not too long ago, on July 04 he had said that the Congress would not come back to power as people were fed up with it and that the regional parties would play role in national politics. He had also stated then that the BJP would also not come to power. Where does that leave the politics of the country then – the formation of the Third Front?
And very recently in the month of August, the SP chief had openly backed yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s agitation against black money and corruption. Even as the yoga guru raised the pitch against the Congress with his slogan - Congress hatao, desh bachchao – the SP leader said that his party was against black money and that “whoever talks about bringing back black money, we will support (him).” (Ironical, Mulayam talking of black money but that is another matter).
Given the present political scenario in the country, the Congress more likely than not is on its way out in 2014, i.e. if it is able to somehow limp to the finishing line. Scams after scams that it has been tainted with; the lack of vision in running the country that it has been charged of; the policy paralysis that it has been accused of; has only led to the worsening image of the beleaguered grand old party.
Thus, the time is as ripe as it can be for the likes of Mulayam to take the plunge and bring all the like-minded people on board. Given her success in ousting the Left rule in West Bengal after more than 30 years, Mamata Banerjee too fancies her chances in the next general elections and has repeatedly asked her party members to be ready for mid-term polls. The same is the case with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. With battle lines clearly drawn between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over NDA’s PM candidate, one is not sure as to which way JD(U) will go in 2014.
Mulayam recently led an eight-party combination of non-UPA and non-NDA members for a sit-in demonstration at Parliament House complex. The official reason was to bring normalcy back to the now-washed-out Monsoon Session of Parliament over coal blocks allocation; it triggered the speculation that the SP supremo had made the first move in forming a Third Front. Those part of his brigade were Parliament members belonging to the CPI, CPI(M), RSP, Forward Block, Telgu Desam Party, Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK.
But the idea of a cohesive Third Front to work and come to power is always going to be difficult given the ethos of our polity. The patriarch of the Bhartiya Janata Party, LK Advani, had recently predicted that both the saffron party and the Congress will not come to power on their own in 2014 and that if at all, no Third Front government can be formed without the support of either two national parties.
If one looks at the past then what Advani has said is true. Moreover, such a government has always been an unstable one. First time that the Third Front (known as the National Front) came to power was in 1989 – the government lasted for 11 plus 4 months with outside support of the Left parties and the BJP and then the Congress. The second time was in 1996 when a 13 party United Front came to power and lasted for 21 months with outside support of the Congress, in which Mulayam was the defence minster.
So, it is clear that Mulayam will not part ways with the Congress now because if the Third Front comes to power with the SP chief at the helm, then more likely than not they will seek Congress’ support if they fall short of numbers. And if the Congress falls short of numbers and is not in a position to form the government, then it will not mind supporting such a government as that will mean keeping the BJP out and having power by proxy. And if the UPA can somehow come to power then the Congress will always have the two Ms to support it. It’s almost like a merry-go-round and one big happy family. Time for the BJP and the NDA to get their act right?
Post Script: The grand old man of UP politics, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has been a busy man lately. But if he harbours the ambition of becoming the king or the kingmaker, then he surely has a lot of work to do and the road ahead is definitely long.