`I will not be a stumbling block'

Published : Aug 15, 2003 00:00 IST



Interview with Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav will be a key player in the Congress(I)'s scheme of things if it is really serious about its new strategy for the Lok Sabha elections. But Mulayam Singh remains unimpressed by the Congress(I)'s overtures, and keeps his options open, both on the question of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress(I) and on Sonia Gandhi's leadership of such an alliance. Excerpts from an interview he gave Purnima S. Tripathi:

The Congress(I) declared at its Shimla meet that it was ready for electoral alliances with like-minded parties. Your party will be a key figure in Uttar Pradesh in this context. What do you have to say on this?

I have only read about this proposal in the newspapers. It is a good initiative and I would want it to be taken forward. But everyone will have to accept the political realities; then only can it lead to a positive political atmosphere not only in Uttar Pradesh but all over the country.

What political realities are you talking about?

Any alliance will have to be based on the respective party's strength in that State. If I demand as many seats in Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh as in Uttar Pradesh, or even Madhya Pradesh where too we have a substantial base, it will not be right on my part. Similarly, others too should realise and accept their strengths and weaknesses if the right message has to go in.

Does this mean you are exploring the possibility of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress(I)?

I can't say that at this moment. All I can say is that this is a good beginning and I will not be a stumbling block.

The Congress(I) also declared in Shimla that Sonia Gandhi would have to be accepted as the leader of any such alliance. What do you have to say on this?

The issue here is whether we want to save the country from communal forces, from foreign powers, from destruction, or fight over who should be the leader. Such preconditions would only help the BJP. She is the leader of the Congress party and there is no dispute about that. But our leader is Lohiaji. Every party has its own leaders. The Congress(I) should instead talk about programmes and policies.

Do you mean to say that Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins will become a debating point and the BJP will gain from that?

The Supreme Court has already given its ruling on this issue. There is no steam in this issue any more. If the BJP wants to make this an issue, then let them make legislation to this effect in Parliament, and amend the Constitution. If this actually was an issue, then why was [P.A.] Sangma forced to resign from the Constitution Review Commission. This cannot become an issue now.

Will you accept Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister?

This is a matter that will come later. It will depend on who wins how many seats. The Congress(I) should try to get a majority in Parliament first.

A majority on its own?

It will not get majority on its own. It should concentrate on winning as many seats as possible. The Samajwadi Party will try and win as many seats as possible.

What is your opinion on the Kanchi Sankaracharya's involvement in the Ayodhya dispute?

The BJP took the Sankaracharya for a ride. He is respected by lakhs of Hindus and Muslims alike and the BJP involved him just to prove that even his words are not being respected. The BJP played a fraud on the Sankaracharya and made him a disputed figure too.

But why?

Because they want to keep the Ayodhya dispute alive so that they can make Hindus and Muslims fight, and thus grab votes. They also wanted to show the Sankaracharya that even he was not able to solve the problem. By this they wanted to prove that they were right in demolishing the mosque.

Do you think the Ayodhya problem can be solved through dialogue?

Only if the religious leaders of both communities sit down to talk and keep the interest of the country uppermost in their minds. But frankly speaking, I don't see the problem getting resolved through dialogue.

You mean to say that politicians have failed here?

Yes, and that is because the BJP does not want a solution. It wants to keep the issue burning. But it does not realise that it will not get votes on this issue any more because real issues such as poverty, unemployment and price rise will be the deciding factors.

The BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party have declared that they will fight the Lok Sabha elections together in Uttar Pradesh. What do you think will be its impact? Are you worried?

I am not worried about it at all because my party is stronger than ever. But yes, the BSP will gain, if at all, at the cost of the BJP, while the BJP will be a loser.

Do you think reservation for women will ever become a reality, especially after the BJP's dual representation formula?

I am all for reservation for women, but I don't understand why the Congress(I), the Left parties and the BJP are adamant about passing the Bill in its present format.

But they say you are adamant?

That is not true. I don't support the Bill in its present form but I want the Election Commission's formula - that the parties should decide which seats should be reserved - to be accepted.

But you don't agree to the quantum of reservation as well.

Yes, I am not in favour of 33 per cent. It should be brought down.

How much?

(Laughs) Initially I was saying 10 per cent, then 15 per cent, but if it is left to the parties, then I shall even accept 20 per cent.

You were entrusted with the responsibility of evolving a consensus on this issue. Why were you not able to convince others about your formula?

Because the Left and the Congress(I) were adamant that they would support the Bill in its present form only.

But the Left parties are your friends?

They are friends only for their own vested interest.

Are you anticipating early Lok Sabha elections?

Yes, by February next year, because the BJP thinks there is a wave in its favour. But it will also depend on the outcome of the four State Assembly elections later this year.

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