`My alliance with Mulayam is people's will'

Published : Sep 26, 2003 00:00 IST

Interview with Kalyan Singh

From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, Uttar Pradesh politics revolved around "Mandal" and "Kamandal", with bitter rivals, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, representing the two segments. The political discourse was marked by acrimony, often bordering on abusive exchanges between the two leaders and their supporters. Representing two farthest poles of the political spectrum, they hated each other. However, Kalyan Singh, with the BJP at that time, had a political edge over Mulayam Singh in the sense that he symbolised the amalgamation of both "Mandal" and "Kamandal" (being a backward caste leader). This meeting of the two streams in the persona of Kalyan Singh gave the BJP the winning edge. Towards the end of 1990s, though, the picture changed. Kalyan Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh then, was expelled from the party for "anti-party activities", because he allegedly worked against the BJP candidates in many Lok Sabha constituencies in the 1999 elections. Politics in the State turned a full 180 degree, and both Kalyan Singh, who formed the Rashtriya Kranti Party, and Mulayam Singh found themselves on the same side of the divide. The distance between them gradually decreased and the 2002 Assembly elections saw the two rivals contesting together.

Bitter animosity gave way to a friendship so strong that today Kalyan Singh has emerged as a key player in hoisting Mulayam Singh to the Chief Minister's position. Kalyan Singh, who is described as the Chanakya of modern-day politics, was instrumental in weaning away a number of BJP Members of the Legislative Assembly in October-November last year, giving a jolt to the Mayawati government. It was Kalyan Singh again who, along with Ajit Singh, managed to get the breakaway Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) group to support the Mulayam Singh government. In an interview to Purnima S. Tripathi, Kalyan Singh attributes the change to the changed political situation. Excerpts:

What made the two most antagonistic political rivals come together in U.P.? It cannot be ideology because you and Mulayam Singh followed just the opposite streams all through your political lives until this meeting of minds.

Circumstances at times force people to take decisions that they could never have imagined or thought of before. We were poles apart. We were at two extreme ends of the political landscape. But circumstances forced us to walk together. We both realised that if we kept following diametrically opposite politics, we will both be finished. And the same circumstances will force us to stay together.

Is it not sheer opportunism then that is keeping you together?

No, one should call it people's will. We have been thrown together by the sheer will of the people. No one wants fresh elections soon. The MLAs don't want mid-term polls. It was in the larger interest of the people that we came together.

How stable would this arrangement be, since it is just circumstantial?

This government will complete its full term because the circumstances dictate that this is the era of alliances and coalition politics. At least for the next 10 years or so, no party can come to power either in Uttar Pradesh or at the Centre on its own. People with diverse political backgrounds will have to join hands. As for the stability factor, this government will last because the Opposition is scattered. Who can destabilise this government? Even the Congress(I) will have to accept that it cannot do without coalition and alliances.

You are an ex-BJP man. How much support did you receive from the BJP in setting up this government? The BJP was seen not to be obstructing your way?

This was because it realised it had lost the numbers game. If it had not allowed this government to be formed, its U.P. unit would have split. They were also aware that if Mulayam was not given the chance we would parade our MLAs in front of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

When you were in the BJP, the party gained politically by raising the Ayodhya issue. Do you think the BJP will once again fall back on this issue? Will the Sangh Parivar foment trouble?

The BJP has become an issueless party today. Except for Ayodhya they have nothing. But this issue too has lost the potential to generate the same heat as in the 1980s. People have seen through the BJP game, that it does not want to solve the Ayodhya issue, it only wants to whip up frenzy by raising it every time elections approach. People have lost faith in the BJP now. Its Hindutva card will fail this time.

Would upper-caste voters not go back to the BJP, now that it has parted ways with the BSP?

The upper-castes will return to the Congress(I). If the Congress(I) manages its political affairs deftly in U.P. and goes for an alliance with non-BJP parties, we will sweep the polls in Uttar Pradesh. If there is a BJP government in Gujarat, it is because of the Congress party's mistake. If it had left even 30-35 seats for parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party, the Lok Jan Shakti and the Samajwadi Party, it would have sent the right message and the party would have won substantially in central Gujarat. It was central Gujarat that made all the difference.

Such hostility towards the BJP appears surprising, because when you were in that party you used to say that on death your dead body would be draped in the BJP's flag?

(Tears well up in his eyes) The BJP has snatched even my kafan (shroud) from me. I did not leave the party; I was expelled. Expelled from the party for which I dedicated my entire life.

What are your future plans? Have you considered going back to the BJP at any stage?

There was some talk about it at one time, but no more. My party will be a partner in Mulayam Singh's government. I will not join the government. I don't want any post now. I have been the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh so many times and would not accept any profile even a micro inch below that in status. My cooperation and help will be from outside.

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