For a non-Congress(I) alternative

Published : Jul 04, 2003 00:00 IST

Ajit Singh under the portrait of his father Charan Singh. - SHNAKER CHAKRAVARTY

Ajit Singh under the portrait of his father Charan Singh. - SHNAKER CHAKRAVARTY

Interview with Ajit Singh, Rashtriya Lok Dal president and former Union Agriculture Minister.

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president and former Union Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh, who resigned from the Union Cabinet before the last reshuffle and withdrew support to the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh, set off a chain reaction in U.P. politics, leading to a realignment of political forces. His initiative brought the Samajwadi Party closer to the RLD and made the Congress(I) change its approach to Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Although the efforts to bring down the Mayawati government failed, the realignment of political forces could have far-reaching consequences for politics in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre. Excerpts from the interview he gave Purnima S. Tripathi:

All the hectic lobbying in Uttar Pradesh has failed to bring the Mayawati government down. What next?

A change of government in Uttar Pradesh was not the only purpose of this unity of Opposition parties. This will have a larger, far-reaching consequence not only for State politics, but also for national politics. This will trigger a chain reaction and make other allies wary of the BJP's designs.

They have already started realising that the BJP had some role in the splits they suffered. They will have to rethink about their future with the BJP. One by one, all of them are being either broken or weakened by other means. The BJD had broken already, the Samata Party has split, there are problems in the Janata Dal, and the Trinamul Congress almost split. The allies are recognising that the BJP had a hand in this.

But there are parties that cannot join hands with the Congress(I) because of their own political compulsions. For example, the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh.

But why are we assuming that anybody who breaks with the NDA will have to go to the Congress(I)? There could be a third front which will give a voice to the non-BJP, non-Congress(I) voter, an alternative to the existing political formulations.

In Uttar Pradesh, how come you and Mulayam Singh Yadav have been able to forget your decade-long hostility?

If the BJP and BSP can come together when their vote banks are at daggers drawn, why can't I and Mulayam come together? At least our vote banks are compatible.

Does that mean you will accept Mulayam Singh Yadav as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh as and when the Opposition parties are able to form an alternative government?

I'm not a candidate for chief ministership in Uttar Pradesh and I shall have no problem in accepting Mulayam Singh Yadav, or anybody else for that matter, as the Chief Minister.

But at the moment, an alternative government does not look possible

If democratic norms were followed in Uttar Pradesh, the Governor would have directed the government to seek a fresh vote of confidence after the withdrawal of support by my party. As per democratic norms, the government has no majority. This government was formed on the basis of a three-party coalition, with the BSP, the BJP and the RLD as partners. When one partner, the RLD, has withdrawn support, it is incumbent upon the government to seek a fresh vote of confidence because the other two do not have a majority on their own. Independents are independents, they can vote either way. But this minority government is being protected by the Governor and the U.P. Assembly Speaker in contravention of democratic norms.

There have been precedents, Maharashtra being a very recent example where the government had to seek a vote of confidence only because five MLAs withdrew support. But, unfortunately in Uttar Pradesh, such democratic considerations do not seem to count. Whenever there is an occasion, the Opposition is ready to provide an alternative government. We want to tell the people that the fall of the Mayawati government need not necessarily mean mid-term elections. We have the numbers and we are capable of providing an alternative, stable government.

Did not your action come a bit late in the day? Had you taken the same step earlier, before the Congress(I) split, would it not have made a bigger impact?

That is true. But it is better late than never. Even when I was in the NDA, I realised I was making too many compromises. I was fighting all the way for even small benefits for farmers. The drought last year was an eye-opener. It was the worst ever drought since 1875 and still the government was not doing as much as it should have for farmers. Then I realised that the NDA government's priorities were not right. It was protecting the rich, the powerful and the organised, instead of poor farmers. Fertilizer subsidy was withdrawn, surcharge was levied on diesel, and the government announced a 20 per cent waiving of interest on the kharif crop loan for 2002, which works out to only Rs.472 crores out of a total of Rs.2,360 crores. The total drought assistance in 18 States was Rs.2,201.73 crores. But look at the help given to financial institutions such as the IFCI and the IDBI in the same period. It works out to a whopping Rs.2,869 crores. Once I started questioning and talking about this, there was a problem.

What do you plan to do next?

I would expose these things to the people. If (Arun) Jaitley is giving statistics about development in Madhya Pradesh, then I shall present my own statistics to the people to show how much this government cares about them.

Does the RLD plan to contest the forthcoming Assembly elections?

Yes. In parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which are adjoining Uttar Pradesh, we have a base and we'll present an alternative to the people. Since the Congress(I) too has not fared any better, ours will be a non-BJP, non-Congress(I) alternative. The future course of action will depend on the outcome of these elections.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment