Lucknow: With Amar Singh out, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav is clearly out to replace him with Raja Bhaiya as the party`s new Thakur mascot.
Less known by his real name, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, independent MLA Raja Bhaiya hosted a party at his residence here Thursday night, with most prominent Samajwadi Party leaders, led by former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh, on the guest list.
Even as the party was ostensibly thrown "to celebrate the victory of Raja Bhaiya`s cousin at the recent state legislative council elections", it was widely seen to be part of Mulayam Singh`s dinner diplomacy to disprove Amar Singh`s claim that the Thakur community would rally behind him.
All such SP MLAs who were considered close to Amar Singh - largely due to caste reasons - were conspicuously present at the big bash. These included former Uttar Pradesh minister Arvind Singh Gope, Yashwant Singh, Rajiv Singh, Om Prakash Singh and Mayankeshwar Saran Singh.
Raja Bhaiya had also discreetly invited a select section of the media to ensure that news reached where it was intended.
Mulayam Singh told reporters: "I am here only in response to an invitation by Raja Bhaiya; and this is just a dinner, no politics."
He claimed, "It is sheer coincidence that a number of my party MPs and legislators are also present."
While initially showing reluctance to make any comment, he said: "Amar Singh chose to leave the party essentially because of his health problems. I am myself really concerned about his health, and it is my sincere advice to him to concentrate on his health."
Referring to Amar Singh`s expulsion from the party Feb 2, Mulayam Singh said: "The decision was not just mine, it was taken at a fully-attended meeting of the party parliamentary board. In fact, you people only published his statements. But once these statements were directed against the party, the matter was taken up by the SP parliamentary board, which took the final decision to expel him."
When a scribe asked how he could look so "relaxed", the Samajwadi Party chief shot back: "Politics is always full of ups and downs. I believe in adapting myself to changes that take place in politics; as such I have reason to feel relaxed."
He did not seem too sure about party Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan`s intent and continued to shower praise on her.
"Even though she has been critical of me, I have all the respect and regard for Jaya Bachchan. She is well within the party and has not said anything against the party," he said.