Arch rivals Mulayam, Mayawati reunite against BJP

Gautam Lahiri

20 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

New Delhi: The unexpected reconciliation between Uttar Pradesh’s two arch-rivals Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav is seen as new political dynamics, which are likely to influence election results in India.

The coalition between the two leaders may take a heavy toll on Narendra Modi’s BJP-led NDA in elections in the Hindi belt, political experts speculate.

The duo came together on one stage on Friday more than two decades after their bitter falling out. The rare sight was followed by the even more unusual occurrence of Mayawati,  the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief canvassing for Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party workers had manhandled her 24 years ago in the notorious “Guest House” incident.

Referring to that incident, she sought to explain:  “Mulayam Singhji is not a fake backward leader like the prime minister.”

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and  Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party have shared seats in 80 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh to defeat BJP candidates. The two parties have withdrawn candidates from Amethi and Rae Bareli to ensure the victory of Congress candidates Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.

“Sometimes looking at the country’s future you have to take a difficult decision in the larger interest... Mulayam Singh Yadav ji has changed over the years... he has done a lot to ensure people, especially women get their due share during the Samajwadi Party’s rule.”

The reunion is loaded with political messaging in the middle of the national election, in which opposition parties are trying to stop the BJP from retaining power.

The spectacle of the bitter enemies sharing the stage is really the essence of the opposition gathbandhan (alliance) in Uttar Pradesh to take on the BJP in the national election.

Mulayam Singh, the father of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, is contesting the election from Mainpuri, a family stronghold. It is a safe seat for the Samajwadi patriarch, so getting Mayawati to address a rally here was high on optics.

The effort from both parties is to showcase their friendship and ensure the smooth transfer of votes wherever the gathbandhan has fielded joint candidates.

Mulayam Singh and Mayawati fell out after their ruling coalition in UP crashed in 1995, two years after they came together along with smaller parties to keep the BJP out of power. As Mayawati decided to pull out support and join hands with the BJP, Samajwadi Party workers barged into a state guest house where the BSP chief was camping with her supporters and roughed her up.

After Akhilesh Yadav took over as Samajwadi Chief, he reached out to Mayawati - the pair is now popular as the bua-babua (aunt-nephew) - and attempted a do-over. Last year, the two parties successfully collaborated to win by-polls in BJP strongholds like Kairana, Gorakhpur and Phulpur.

Mulayam Singh firmly signalled, especially to old-timers wary about the alliance, that he has put the interests of his son as a top priority by sharing the stage with Mayawati and praising her. Akhilesh Yadav is fighting a make or break election and his future depends on a good showing in the polls.