Mulayam’s open support for Modi in Parliament helps BJP challenge the narrative that the party has been deserted by all leaders and parties.
His son may have been prevented — almost physically — from addressing a student gathering at Allahabad University by BJP leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — but Mulayam Singh Yadav seems to have no qualms with the party and its numero uno, Narendra Modi.
In a big boost to Modi’s political campaign seeking re-election in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Mulayam Singh has declared he wants to see Modi as Prime Minister once again.
“Meri kaamna hai ki pradhaanmantri ji aap phirse pradhaanmantri banein. Mera anubhav hai ki main jab bhi aap se mila, aapne turant mera kaam kiya [I wish that PM Modi, you should become the prime minister again. I have experienced that whenever I met you, you got my work done instantly.]”
Mulayam’s wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark made in response to some media query, which could later be turned into “I was quoted out of context.” The Samajwadi Party (SP) leader, who has been the Defence Minister of India and three-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, made the remarks in Parliament.
Interestingly, Mulayam said this with United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi sitting right next to him.
Mulayam’s bid to see Modi return to power as PM came on a day when Opposition parties came together at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to hold the ‘Save Democracy’ rally. The Opposition has been claiming democracy is in peril under Modi’s rule.
Interestingly, Mulayam’s son Akhilesh too participated in the rally.
Several parties have left the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the recent past and along with BJP’s old rivals, have come together to present a ‘united front’ challenging Modi’s bid to power.
At the United India rally held in Kolkata on January 19, it wasn’t just the Opposition parties but BJP’s own leader Shatrughan Sinha who challenged the Modi government.
Mulayam’s open support for Modi thus helps the BJP challenge the narrative that the party has been deserted by all leaders and parties.
In Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam still is a tall leader with the ability to sway votes and voters. His saying that Modi tried to take every one along at a time when many leaders accuse Modi of being a dictator thus adds to Modi’s tally in the perception battle.
“Main pradhanmantri ji ko badhai dena chahta hun. Pradhanmantri ji aapne bhi sabse miljulkar bhi sabka kaam kiya. Yeh sahi hai ki hum jab-jab mile, kisi kaam ke liye kaha to aapne usi waqt order kiya. Main aapka yahan par aadar karta hun. Samman karta hun ki pradhanmantri ji ne sabko saath lekar chalne ka prayas kiya. [I want to congratulate the Prime Minister. Mr Prime Minister you took everyone along. It is true that whenever I met you and asked for something, you ordered it immediately. I respect you. I respect the fact that you tried to take everyone along.]”
Mulayam’s statement is in sharp contrast to leaders who have been accusing Modi and his government of being obstructionist.
But why has Mulayam chosen to break ranks with his son and other Opposition leaders?
Mulayam is an astute politician. He has had prime ministerial ambitions, having served as the country’s defence minister under the IK Gujral government.
It is all too clear by now that the results of the 2019 General Elections could go either way and this is the reason why all parties need to keep all their doors and options open. So, on the one hand, while the son is raising the heat against Modi, Mulayam is doing the balancing act.
This way, it will be easier to sweeten any deal — the possibility of which could arise once the 2019 results are out. This gesture from Mulayam could help ensure the SP stays on good terms with Modi, should he return to power. Akhilesh, on the other hand, is ensuring the SP stands to gain if the Congress finds itself in a position to stake claim to power.
Akhilesh, meanwhile, is also part of the Opposition camp attending all rallies being called by regional leaders.
This game is still wide open.