A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh virtually called the Samajwadi Party (SP) an unreliable, unpredictable ally, emphasising the instability of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Friday said he was not going to withdraw support to UPA, thereby ruling out early elections.
Even as there were sharp exchanges between SP and UPA, Finance Minister P Chidambaram intervened to provide a soothing touch. But at the end of the day, it seemed clear that however much the two allies insulted each other, neither would push things to the point where the government might fall in jeopardy.
At a public meeting two days ago, Yadav had called the Congress 'dhokhebaaz' (cheat). A few days earlier, many SP leaders were loud and voluble in their praise of leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sending confusing political signals.
The Congress had not responded immediately but the prime minister, in his interaction with the media on his return from South Africa, agreed the possibility of Yadav causing instability "existed".
On Friday, however, after Chidambaram pledged full financial support to Uttar Pradesh, Yadav said there was no point in pulling out of the government, as elections were anyway going to be held a few months later.
"Relations have not soured. I do not know on what basis the prime minister made those remarks. Right now, withdrawing support has not been discussed in the party. For now, there is no question of SP withdrawing support to the UPA government." Said Yadav in an interview.
However, Yadav continued his diatribe against Beni Prasad Verma, face of the Congress party in the state. He said, apparently referring to Verma, those talking about SP's "deal" with the Congress were themselves "traitors". SP supporters acknowledged this as a personal attack on Verma, once Yadav's close associate, rather than a political criticism of the government.
"I am not afraid of anyone and that is why I speak the truth. I have never betrayed anyone. On the other hand, I was betrayed many times...," he said.
Meanwhile, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, which recently moved out of the UPA fold in protest of the government's policy on the Tamil question, said no useful purpose had been served for the Eelam cause by its withdrawal. But having withdrawn, it would no longer support UPA, even from outside.
The curtain also seemed to be drawn on the possibility of new allies coming in. Janata Dal (United) leader K C Tyagi said in New Delhi his party had no plans to leave the National Democratic Alliance and defect to UPA. Over talks that a grand bargain had been struck between UPA and JD(U) on special-category status for Bihar, Tyagi said: "Granting special status on the basis of its backwardness is not a matter of bargain... It is Bihar's right and not a bargain."