Couple of months back then Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi said, “Aisa koi saga nahi jisko Lalu aur Nitish ne thaga nahi”. Though Manjhi's attack was pointed at the Lalu-Nitish duo, ironically, the same is true for the Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Now there are reports of Mulayam Singh Yadav ditching the Janata Alliance, leaving JD(U) chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in a quandary. The report says, CPI(M) chief Prakash Karat had forewarned Bihar chief minister on trusting Mulayam's commitment to the contemplated Janata alliance. As of today, this proposed alliance isn't going anywhere and there have been sufficient hints both from Mulayam and Lalu camps to put a full stop to its rickety but grand ambitions.
But, Nitish is not the first who is staring at a likely betrayal from the SP chief. In the past, many doyens of Indian politics have been stumped by Mulayam's flip-flops.
Ditched VP Singh for Chandra Shekar
Ideologically, Mulayam professes to be a Lohiaiite, but opportunism has always found a leeway over principles and credos he publicly adheres to. In 1989, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, then a Congress rebel, dethroned Rajiv Gandhi to form India’s second non-Congress coalition government. Mulayam was quick to ditch Chandra Shekhar and join Singh. Though, not for long. Once VP Singh was out of power, Mulayam was back in Chandra Shekhar's boat.
Punctured Sonia Gandhi’s prime ministerial ambitions
Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government lost the vote of confidence in 1999 and after hearing positive noises from Mulayam, Sonia Gandhi walked to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to stake claim to form the new government. Though the Congress believed that Mulayam would extend support to the party during the trust vote, Mulayam backed out within a few hours. And the excuse Mulayam gave was that he couldn’t support a person of foreign origin, a euphemism for Sonia Gandhi, being elected as the prime minister of the country.
Backstabbed Left Front for APJ Abdul Kalam
In 2002, the NDA government floated the name of APJ Abdul Kalam for the post of the president of India. Then Mulayam's Samajwadi Party was part of the People's Front, a motley group of non-BJP and non-Congress political parties. The People's Front opposed Kalam's candidature and instead decided to pitch for Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, a veteran freedom fighter from the INA. And we know what happened next. Mulayam, with an eye on the crucial Muslim vote bank, sided with the NDA to support Kalam's candidature.
Ditched Left Front over nuclear deal
In 2008, Mulayam deserted the Left and other Third Front parties to back the UPA-2 government on the nuclear deal with the Unites States.
Deserted Mamata in 2012
In 2012, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee was clearly not in favour of Pranab Mukherjee's presidential candidature. Mulayam quite clearly made it appear he was in agreement with the West Bengal CM. He even met Mamata and jointly proposed the name of Somnath Chatterjee, Manmohan Singh and APJ Abdul Kalam as SP’s and TMC's common choices for president. A day later, Mulayam did a somersault after a meeting with the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and supported Pranab Mukherjee instead, leaving Mamata in a lurch, and probably, a bit less politically naïve.
Why veteran strategists like Lalu and Nitish would end up linking their political fortunes to Mulayam is a most intriguing question. Were they really that desperate?