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New Political Games:AMAR, MULAYAM & PAWAR, by Lalit Sethi,14 January 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 14 January 2010

New Political Games



By Lalit Sethi


What are the games or rather new games that Thakur Amar Singh is playing after “splitting up” with Samajwadi’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, the one-time “Maulana” Mulayam of the Indian political scene?  The ‘Maulana’ insists that a long-standing and old relationship cannot end in one day. He would do everything to persuade Amar Singh to remain with him. Both of them are wily foxes and giving their own twists and turns to the rapid changing scenario. Amar Singh says he has resigned from all offices in the SP or Socialist Party even as little or no socialism is left in it, but continues to play games.


Where is Thakur Amar Singh headed? Is he going to float a new party? Possible, but unlikely, because running a new outfit could  drain his personal financial resources although he is an industrialist with possibly Rs.1,000 crore or more assets. His reason for plans to leave the SP could be that Mulayam is tightening the purse strings because he is out of power and cannot afford to allow his cash reserves to run out or be too low.  Amar Singh would prefer to be a free spender, having tasted blood with the likes of Ketan Parekh, one of the biggest wheeler-dealers of the stock markets, besides high profile film stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dut and Jaya Prada, leave along Raj Babbar.


Who among the smaller parties has the capability to meet Amar Singh’s wishes? It would appear that Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, who has been asked to merge his party  with the Congress in a return to and a sort of “ home coming”, is the key target. Pawar may wish to use the expertise of Amar Singh to ward off the Congress threats and the ongoing blame game over the skyrocketing sugar prices. The Government’s criticism of Pawar has been countered by the Thakur, who insists there is a  joint Cabinet responsibility in a coalition and it is unfair to blame Pawar alone-- the NCP’s line. 


All parties are taking a volatile stand on prices as they feel it hurts the millions and puts the government in a spot. Is Amar Singh a cat among the pigeons or is he trying to appear to be a pigeon among the cats of hard-nosed people? A volatile Budget Session of Parliament lies ahead as the Centre blames the States and vice versa.  Importantly, the SP’s turf, Uttar Pradesh is a major sugar mill area, which does not pay cane farmers on time or the market prices and unpaid dues hinders sugar production.


Sugar has been imported, of which two million tonnes alone is kept in UP. There is a shortage of 60 to 70 million tonnes because of the drought and more sugar will be imported to meet the requirements of 230 million tonnes. Does the stand taken by Amar Singh in support of Pawar have the full, even if tacit, endorsement of Mulayam Singh, who was unable to join the Congress-led coalition.


Recall, he was not the original alliance partner of the UPA, but was opposing the Congress alongside Lalu Prasad Yadav in last year’s General elections. Both are nursing their wounds by being left out in the cold rather than being given a berth in the government. Mulayam may wish to build bridges with Pawar at some point of time, whenever it is, as the Government says it has no place for him and his protégés.


However, the anti-defection law may stand in the way of most political leaders as one-third of any party MPs or MLAs must leave their party to save their seats. Thus, Amar Singh may prefer to wait or take a couple of years to join hands with Pawar. At present he is a Rajya Sabha member of the SP. In the meantime, he must build up a following of leaders and cadres. His targets could be Kalyan Singh, a former Chief Minister of UP, who had left the BJP and joined hands with the SP, and has now set up a new party. Is this at the behest of Amar Singh as the new dispensation at the BJP wanted him back, but he didn’t oblige. 


In the BJP, Thakur Rajnath Singh is the most recent President to be forced to resign as party chief after L K Advani was ousted three years ago. He is nursing his wounds and may need to look for new pastures over a period of time since he is still a senior and relatively young member of the Lok Sabha. This, plus other dissidents in the BJP, whose number are rising by the day, could deal a severe blow to the saffron brigade, including the RSS in the future.


Interestingly, Amar Singh hints gently that he remains the spokesman of the SP, and the reason for his giving up responsibilities in the party has to do with his kidney transplant or transplants. These transplants had been ruled by his Mumbai doctors, who had given him 50 per cent, or less, as chances of survival. Thus he could not be too active. Even the ruddy cheeks that he used to sport until he went to Mumbai, and later to Singapore, may now be a bit or somewhat pale, but the voice quality is quite good. He may be less acerbic in, but that appears to be a calculated move.  


Moreover, the emphasis on the word Thakur is politically important because it enables him to flaunt his credentials as a sort of “trustworthy” man who could be counted for his word. Eight years ago when Mulayam Singh became the UP CM, he did not have outright majority support in the legislature. Then 18 Thakur MLAs of BSP joined the SP to keep him in power for the next five years. Was it the result of Thakur Rajnath Singh and Thakur Amar Singh arranging this Thakur defection and reaching a secret agreement wherein the BJP leaders’ prosecution in the Ayodhya case would not be pursued? It was widely believed to be so and it damaged Mulayam’s pro-Muslim image.


But in an India wishing to abolish castes and nurture a classless and casteless society, Thakurs seeking to be egalitarian still consider themselves as key players in the polity and social milieu. They still call the shots in both rural and urban society in the Hindi heartland or the cow belt, with pretensions of high profile, generally fair complexion and often sporting distinct moustaches. At times the moustaches are dropped to enable them to merge with the rest of the crowd.


Be that as it may, Amar Singh’s moves are being closely watched. In the past, his friendships have cut across party and caste lines. They included as well as excluded Thakur lobbies. He had cut deals with the BJP and the Congress too. The coming weeks should reveal where he strikes his next deal. --INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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