The crucial question in the Congress is, how it is viewed by Mayawati and Mulayam?
The occurrence itself is unusual — that the two parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), bitter rivals in Uttar Pradesh, should be on the same side, supporting the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
The Congress, the single largest partner in the alliance, believes neither SP nor BSP have a choice. They are both seeking support of the Muslims in UP and elsewhere, and they can never be seen supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party, the biggest Opposition party at the Centre.
For Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP founder-chief, the central issue is credibility. He has been a partner of the Left parties for a long time and even when he appeared to be in alliance with the Trinamool Congress, on the issue of election for the presidentship of India, it was clear the alliance would not last.
It was the Left that had backed him at key moments in the past. It was so during the 1996-98 United Front experiment in governance. Then, when the UPA first made a stab at seeking power, it was Harkishan Singh Surjeet of the CPI(M) who took Yadav with then lieutenant Amar Singh to meet Sonia Gandhi. In 2008, the SP supported the Congress against the Left in a crucial vote on the civil nuclear deal, leading to estrangement, but they appear now to have made up. The Left parties, SP and Telugu Desam will have a joint dharna tomorrow at Jantar Mantar in Delhi against the decision to allow foreign direct investment in the retail sector.
However, while it might help Mulayam Singh to support the Left parties in Delhi, his help to the Congress comes with riders. They are rivals in UP. Yet, both are anti-BJP. This is the line the SP supremo is likely to take to justify his current position — neutral on the Trinamool Congress but ideologically opposed to the BJP. Hence the harking back to the ‘secular’ appeal is likely to be the dominant theme of the meeting of the SP’s parliamentary board tomorrow.
The compulsions of BSP supremo Mayawati are much simpler. She knows she has a solid caste base. But, an early election is not in her interest. She would like a little more time to put her party together in UP. Therefore, she will do everything to prevent the collapse of the UPA.