Sniffing early Lok Sabha polls, gloves off between Congress and SP

Lucknow, August 2 (IANS) Are the gloves finally off between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP)? As the 2014 Lok Sabha polls near, the two parties, which have had a rocking love-hate relationship for the last nine years, now seem headed for a parting of ways as grassroot workers on both sides have started building pressure on the respective leaderships to do away with each other's "burden of association".

And the sentiment found reflection at the state executive meet of the ruling SP Wednesday when many middle rung party leaders warned party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav of "doomed prospects" if the party continued to extend support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre, which had become very unpopular with the people.

Confirming this, a senior party functionary present at the meeting told IANS that the 'Neta ji' (as Mulayam Singh is fondly referred to by the party rank and file) had been told upfront that the party will have to face "double incumbency" at the state and central levels if it continued on the same page with the scam-tainted Congress.

"See, we cannot wish away the incumbency at the state level; it is our government and we can fix the problems here. But do we offset the issues that our outside support to the UPA bring with it?" a party leader asked.

Faced with demands to part ways with the Congress or "at least be seen as doing so" Mulayam Singh told workers that the party was not supporting the Congress in any way.

"I have said this many times in the past too and there is no point being confused on this issue any longer," Mulayam Singh Yadav told party leaders while admonishing them for their "confusion" on the party's open stand viz-a-viz the Congress. The SP chief reportedly said the party was not in favour of the Food Security Bill brought by the Congress and might even oppose it during parliament's monsoon session beginning August 5.

Public Works Department Minister Shivpal Yadav, Mulayam Singh's younger brother, also slammed the Congress and said that the people were wise enough to see through the party's political games.

"The people are aware of everything and know who is a scamster and corrupt," Shivpal Yadav told IANS.

SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhary, who is also the Prisons Minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government, has also been very viciously targeting the Congress of late.

His statements accuse the Congress of being anti-people, anti-middle class,

anti-farmer and responsible for all the ills plaguing the country.

The SP, which has traditionally not been fielding candidates against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, party vice president Rahul Gandhi, in Rae Bareilly and Amethi, is said to be tinkering with the idea of doing a volte face this time. The party has announced a majority of its candidates for the Lok Sabha polls but has not named candidates in the Gandhi pocket borough.

SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav has so far not refuted the possibility of the party putting up candidates against the Gandhis.

The Congress' state unit, apparently sensing the impending political divorce, has become belligerent against the SP and has, in fact, stepped up its demands to the national leadership to allow it to "go full blast against the SP".

"We are a people's party and cannot be seen as one which does not take up the people's issues for some political mileage," said a senior Congress MP.

It is for this apparent reason that having remained quiet for long, the Congress has crossed swords with the SP in recent times on issues like the communal clashes, growing crime and the suspension of IAS official Durga Shakti Nagpal.

Former Congress state unit chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi concedes that the situation on the law and order front was "very grim."

Even Madhusudan Mistry, a close Rahul Gandhi aide and general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, has told party workers that there was no "party policy as such to be mum against the SP". Bowing to the demand of grassroot workers on a recent visit to the state, Mistry has given the go-ahead to party leaders to be on the offensive against the anti-people policies and acts of the Akhilesh Yadav government.

The fact that this is being done despite the fact that the UPA government hinges on the support of the SP's 22 MPs in the Lok Sabha, observers feel the Lok Sabha polls could be held sooner than later!

BJP state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak views these developments as a "desperate attempt by both the parties to disassociate from each other". "The SP and the Congress have become unwelcome baggage for each other and they want to get rid of this before the Lok Sabha polls," Pathak said.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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