Interview with Ajit Singh
For the past 14 years they have been fighting for the same political legacy in Uttar Pradesh: the constituency of farmers. Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh and Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav have been pitted against each other since 1989 when they both emerged as the Janata Dal's candidates for the chief ministerial post.
Ajit Singh says ruefully that Mulayam Singh Yadav beat him to the post "because V.P. Singh betrayed me then". Since then there had been no love lost between them. But the situation changed when Ajit Singh, who was Union Agriculture Minister, walked out of the National Democratic Alliance in June and also withdrew support to the Mayawati government; he had 14 members in the Assembly. This eventually led to the collapse of the Mayawati government.
The events that followed saw Ajit Singh pledging support for Mulayam Singh. Ajit Singh played a key role in persuading the Congress(I) to support Mulayam Singh, although the camaraderie appears uneasy even now. Ajit Singh sounds a bit cautious about discussing the longevity of this government, saying there should be a difference-resolving mechanism to handle problems in future. "There would be problems no doubt, because you just cannot wish away personal egos and different political stands on issues. These could cause friction at times. That is why I have suggested the formation of a coordination committee," he told Purnima S. Tripathi in an interview. Excerpts:
You have been a bitter critic of Mulayam Singh all these years. Suddenly you are walking arm-in-arm. How are you going to reconcile the long-standing differences, whether political or personal?
Ego clashes are bound to be there. Differences on certain political issues would also be there. Just the fact that there are so many parties in this government would create problems at times. That is why I have suggested the formation of a coordination committee, on the lines of the NDA for conflict resolution. This committee, which should have representation from all partners, must meet once a month to discuss various issues. We should take a lesson from the failed BSP-BJP alliance. It broke because there was no coordination. As for personal differences, there is nothing permanent in politics: friends don't remain friends forever and enemies are not enemies forever. Things change with the passage of time.
So many parties with such diverse views coming together. Does it make you apprehensive about the survival of this government?
Diverse political opinions could be there but we are all unanimous on one issue: that is, providing good governance. Besides, unlike the BJP-BSP alliance, where there was no unity of ideologies, here the parties at least have some common ideologies like opposition to communal forces. The government should last its tenure of three years, nine months.
Is this the beginning of a broader understanding among various parties for the Lok Sabha elections?
It could have a bearing on the Lok Sabha elections. That is why we want the Congress(I) to be a part of the government. It will make electoral understanding easier.
Creation of a new State, Harit Pradesh, has been your favourite agenda, but none of your partners support you on this. Would you press for a resolution in the State Assembly for the creation of Harit Pradesh?
Harit Pradesh is on my agenda, but whether the Assembly passes a resolution or not will depend on the stand of other parties too. It can only be brought if others too are for it. We need to discuss it in detail. But the movement for Harit Pradesh will continue.
Are you not embarrassed by the presence of Kalyan Singh in this coalition?
Why should we be embarrassed? He is no longer with the BJP, he is helping us fight the BJP communal agenda. We will welcome L.K. Advani too if he joins us. Time changes things a lot. Kalyan Singh is no longer an issue.
There are reports that your party wants the Deputy Chief Minister's post?
All this is still to be discussed. Once Mulayam Singh proves his majority, then we shall get down to working out the minor details.