It is funny how reports keep on talking of SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav as someone who is "wily" and "cunning" and someone who always has the Congress on its toes. The truth couldn't be further from this image that he has cultivated for himself.
From 1996-98, Mulayam was the Defence Minister both under HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral. Since it was rightly predicted that coalitions were here to stay, one would have thought that Mulayam would have been part of many central ministries since.
However, nothing of the sort has happened.
When the Congress came to power in 2004, so shaky was it and so uncertain was its existence; that one would have thought it would definitely take the help of SP and Mulayam would get a plum post. Nothing of the sort happened.
The Congress kept it firmly away and Amar Singh even tried to gatecrash a party that was discussing government formation. When the Left withdrew in 2008 and the Congress leaned on SP to bail it out, the former still failed to join the UPA.
In 2009, the UPA was re-elected in such strong circumstances that the SP wasn't required at all.
So it's been 15 years since Mulayam was part of the central government and the future doesn't look too bright either.
In fact, Mulayam keeps on referring to his secular credentials and paints the "communal" BJP as his enemy. It is paradoxical that he has the biggest hand in NDA reigning from 1998-2004. In the late 1990s, when Congress President Sonia Gandhi wanted to become PM, she was scuppered by a whole host of issues including Mulayam, who at that time opposed her due to her foreign origin.
A combination of all of the above has led to Mulayam being stranded in no man's land.
If the NDA emerges as the biggest bloc, then Mulayam will become irrelevant.
If the UPA scrapes through for a third term, then Sonia has made it amply clear that she wants to have absolutely nothing to do with Mulayam.
If by chance the Third Front emerges as the biggest bloc, then Mulayam's stock is at an all-time low. He will find it difficult to become PM without the support of either the Congress or BJP, both who eye him warily.
It is also inconceivable that the BSP will support the SP at the Centre. To make matters worse, he has antagonized Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee over the 2012 presidential elections when he seemed to back her only to withdraw later.
Hardly anyone wants Mulayam to be PM.
In fact the dark horse has emerged to be JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar who may well become a PM like Gowda and Gujral since he shares a much better relationship with most of the parties.
Mulayam peaked in 2012 when he won the UP Assembly elections. It was only at that time that his strategy seemed to be working. He made Akhilesh the CM and had his eye firmly on the PM's chair.
In fact that's when the iron was hot and had he struck, pulling down the government, then he may well have got 40-50 Lok Sabha seats and made a strong pitch at the Centre. However the moment has come and gone.
Akhilesh has proved to be a disaster CM and is hurtling from one disaster to another. For some reason the Main Stream Media has been very kind on him and riots and violence under his tenure have not been highlighted that much.
But the damage has been done.
With each passing day, the SP's chances are diminishing. If LS polls are held in 2014, then the BSP could well emerge the leader in UP with the SP, Congress and BJP sharing the rest of the spoils. And already the SP's re-election in 2017 seems quite a dim prospect unless Akhilesh engineers a major turnaround.
So the irony is that Mulayam has been unconditionally supporting the Congress since 2004 and has got absolutely nothing in return. And no matter how many "communal" abuses he hurls at the BJP, the fact remains that he in part helped it indirectly come to power at some time in the past.
Past imperfect. Future tense.
That cliche describes Mulayam and the SP at the Centre perfectly.
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