Like him or not, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav is a politician to be reckoned with. This is perhaps why Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t utter a single word against the SP government when he made his speech in Mathura last week.
Modi’s silence suggests that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may be considering allying with the SP for the upcoming 2017 elections in the state. This will be a turnaround as the two parties have been bitter rivals, as was seen during the Lok Sabha elections last year. Mulayam had gone to the extent of claiming that PM Modi was directly responsible for the attacks on Muslim women during the Gujarat riots.
The PM’s silence on Mulayam once again shows the SP leader’s knack of making his worst political enemy – his friend. After the 2014 setback when the SP won only five Parliamentary seats, Mulayam burnt the midnight oil to buy peace with Modi. He even invited him to his grand-nephew and Mainpuri MP Tej Pratap Yadav’s tilak with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Raj Laxmi in Saifai village in Etawah in February this year. Later, the PM also attended their marriage ceremony in Delhi.
Building on his relationship with the Centre, the SP chief called on governor Ram Naik last Thursday for “secret discussions”. Those who know Mulayam and the SP understand his need for power. Though he has secured UP, he clearly wants a larger role for himself in the Centre. The other factor weighing on Mulayam’s mind would be the public discontent with the Akhilesh Yadav government.
Although there is no immediate crisis to the state government – it still has more than 20 months – Mulayam knows it will be tough to regain power in 2017. The poor law and order situation and empty promises of development have hurt the party badly.
The SP chief is also looking at the political future of PM Modi. Modi’s impressive first year has suggested his return to power four years later could be likely. If that’s so, Mulayam, who was once part of the UPA, may look to be part of a future NDA government in 2019.
Mulayam’s need to be in power is confirmed by his own partymen. “Mulayam believes that being in politics is a waste of time if you are not in power. This is why he is slowly changing his secular stance to develop a proximity with Modi”, said a senior SP leader.
There are other reasons for the SP chief’s U-turn from his previous secular stance. Analysts point out that the party is currently losing its grip over its traditional voters and so Mulayam needs to use other parties to remain in power.
By allying with Modi though the SP chief seems to have suggested that he has all but given up on getting the Muslim vote in the state. And there may be good reasons for him to think so. No only has the SP government failed to come good on its promises of jobs for Muslim youth, but have done little to nothing for those who have been languishing in jails for their alleged roles in terrorist activities. Many of them were falsely accused.
Also, over 180 riots have occurred during the over three-year rule of the SP, while a large number of Muzaffarnagar riot victims are still waiting for government aid. In fact, senior Muslims such as Maulana Kalbe Jawwad and the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, have already declared a “war” against Mulayam, blaming him for the plight of Muslims in the state.
By giving up the Muslim vote, Mulayam is taking a big risk. Muslims determine over 165 Assembly seats out of 403 in the state. The tie-up with the BJP and PM Modi suggests though the SP president currently believes that the Modi magic will see him and his party through in the 2017 polls and the 2019 polls too.