Deal or No Deal, Mulayam’s Decision to Go It Alone in Bihar is Good News for BJP

With the CBI entrusted with investigating corruption allegations against the well-connected UP engineer Yadav Singh, the SP leadership knows the only way to save itself is to strike a deal with the BJP

Modi Mulayam saifai

SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event at Mulayam’s hometown of Saifai earlier this year. Credit: PTI

Lucknow: The Samajwadi Party’s decision to walk out of the much talked about ‘grand alliance’ in Bihar has not come as any surprise. The loose knots of the alliance were visible even on day one – April 14, 2015 – when RLD supremo Lalu Prasad and JD (U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar formally declared Mulayam Singh Yadav to be the unanimous leader of the reunited Janata parivar.

Even as much bonhomie was displayed between the leaders and Mulayam was seen basking in the glory of  his sudden projection as head of some kind of a potent conglomerate to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party, the SP chief’s cousin and the party’s most prominent general secretary, Ram Gopal Yadav, gave ample indications about the loose knots that the alliance still had to tie up.

Ram Gopal was open about his reservations and the reasons were not far to seek. Having been the party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, he was not particularly happy with the idea of an alliance that would reduce his personal identity as well as status. While it seemed like a big moment for Mulayam to get everyone to agree to contesting the Bihar election on SP’s ‘cycle’ symbol, the idea of losing his prized position as party leader in the Rajya Sabha did not appear palatable to Ram Gopal .

Also, when Lalu Prasad proudly described the wedlock between his daughter and Mulayam’s grand-nephew as the “cementing” of an “unbreakable” relationship, it was Ram Gopal who continued to complain over innocuous issues. It was, therefore, no surprise when none other than Ram Gopal was entrusted with the task of making the announcement that was clearly going to bring smiles to the faces of BJP masterminds strategising the Bihar elections.

New Delhi: SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav with RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav, JDU chief Sharad Yadav,JDS chief H D Deve Gowda and JDU leadr Nitish Kumar during the protest by Janta Parivar at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday.Credit: Atul Yadav/PTI

IN HAPPIER TIMES: SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav with RJD president Lalu Prasad Yadav, JDU chief Sharad Yadav, JDS chief HD Deve Gowda and JDU leader Nitish Kumar during a protest by the Janata Parivar. Credit: PTI Photo

Just as the attempt to reunify kind the old Janata Dal under Mulayam was believed to be aimed at consolidating the Muslim vote, the breaking of the grand alliance is likely to divide the secular vote – thereby giving an advantage to the BJP.

Sure enough, the BJP wished it that way. And the grapevine has it that the deal was struck during Ram Gopal Yadav’s recent meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in New Delhi. “I never met Amit Shah”, asserts Ram Gopal , but admits being closeted with the PM. “So what if I met the PM . So many party leaders meet him . Does that mean everyone is striking deals with him ?”, he asked.

Briefing mediapersons after a meeting of the Samajwadi Party parliamentary board here on Thursday, Ram Gopal said, “We have been humiliated; neither were we consulted during the time of seat allocation nor were we informed as to how many seats were being left for us – whether it was two seats or five seats, we learnt only through TV channels.” He made it a point to add, “We have now decided to contest all the 243 seats entirely on our own and I am confident that we will win many more seats than what was being allocated to us.”  As if to give more weight to the decision, he claimed,  “in any case, the sentiment in the party was not in favour of the alliance and we could not have ignored that.”

Yadav Singh case as lever?

Rumours of a “deal” started gaining ground ever since Mulayam chose to switch sides in Parliament during the recently concluded monsoon session and oppose the Congress for stalling proceedings in the House. The spontaneous reaction of many was simple: “Is the CBI probe against the multi-billionaire Noida engineer-in-chief Yadav Singh being used as a lever to force the SP’s leaders to cooperate with  the BJP leadership?”

Notwithstanding Ram Gopal’s loud assertion – “Why should we be worried about the CBI probe against Yadav Singh?” – the manner in which the Akhilesh Yadav government went out of its way to defend Yadav Singh made it pretty evident that there was much more to his case than meets the eye.

Preceded by an income tax raid, the CBI inquiry against Yadav Singh was ordered by the Allahabad High Court. While it was obvious for the accused to be defending himself, in this case it was the UP government that chose to file a special leave petition challenging the HC order in the Supreme Court.

Significantly, the Chief Justice of India, before whom the appeal was listed, expressed his shock and dismay over the UP government’s bid to get the CBI probe against the  “corrupt” official quashed. While dismissing the appeal, he did not hesitate to add that the UP government  should be happy that the CBI is investigating such major corruption charges against an official.

Sure enough, the ruling dispensation in Lucknow was not left with very many options after the apex court snub. A “deal” alone could ensure immunity to those who were widely known to be hand-in-glove with Yadav Singh – whose skeletons have already started popping out of his cupboard. Speculation is rife that the Yadav Singh nexus with some SP leaders was so blatant, deep-rooted and visibly inseparable that a ”deal” at the highest level was the only escape route left to them.

As for the BJP, the “deal” insures a weakened and divided opposition. Mulayam’s SP may not be of much consequence in Bihar, but if it were to field its nominees on all 243 seats, whatever little percentage of the Yadav or Muslim vote it weans away would, by default, benefit none other than the BJP.