Choose sides, Congress tells Mulayam

    NEW DELHI (TIP): The war of words between Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav sharpened on March 28 with Congress asking the Uttar Pradesh stalwart to decide which side of the secularcommunal divide he is on.

    Stung at being labeled a party that hoodwinks voters at poll time, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said the SP boss had begun to praise BJP leader L K Advani despite his role in the demolition of Babri Masjid. Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari reminded Yadav that the “basic political polarization” is communal versus secular. “He will also have to decide which side he is on,” Tewari said, responding to the SP chief’s attacks. The note of impatience in Congress’s responses do not mean the party is looking for a showdown with SP, but indicates an increasing wariness about SP’s likely action in the light of Yadav’s fulminations.

    So far, SP has stopped well short of reviewing its “outside support” to the UPA despite chaffing at what it feels is its lack of influence at the Centre. The SP government in Uttar Pradesh has repeatedly demanded large dollops of economic assistance. Apart from being a competitor for the minority vote that is essential to its electoral success, Yadav might be provoked by reports that the Centre is considering Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s claims for special assistance in order to reduce its vulnerability to SP. Besides DMK’s withdrawal of support increasing UPA’s dependence on allies like Yadav, SP is keenly weighing when an election will suit it most.

    The UP outfit is aware it must ensure Congress is eliminated as an option to maximize its gains in a national election. Addressing SP workers at his native Saifai, Yadav warned Congress might pull off a clever scheme like the farm loan waiver. “They will again do that. They are so clever and cheat…they take people for a ride when the time comes,” he said. Yadav’s repeated assertions that he is eyeing the prime ministerial chair – he said in Saifai Lok Sabha polls are the “real elections as Delhi means everything” – again serve to emphasize why he needs to target Congress. “As far as Mulayam Singh is concerned, we respect all our allies.

    He also knows in his mind that the basic polarization in this country is communal versus secular forces. He will also have to decide which side he is on,” Tewari said. He also brushed off Yadav’s revisiting the “third front” as a “most enduring mirage” and hoped that SP will continue its “very constructive support” and that “an atmosphere of harmony will prevail”. Alvi pointed out that “We do not want to comment…He himself, can explain it best. But only a few months back, Yadav shared the dais with the Prime Minister when the UPA’s report card on its three-year performance was released.”

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