In the recent history of politics in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati seeking votes for Mulayam Singh Yadav in Mainpuri on Friday is a special moment. Over the last quarter century, these two tallest leaders of the state have walked roads that had until recently appeared destined never to meet.
In welcoming Mayawati to his rally on Friday, and asking his people to respect the Bahujan Samaj Party chief because “she has always stood by us during bad times”, Mulayam slayed a powerful demon from their past—which Mayawati acknowledged by her favourable comparison of the Samajwadi Party patriarch with the “nakli (fake)” and “farzi (fraudulent)” pichhda (backward) leader that she said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was.
The history of the bad blood between Mulayam and Mayawati is linked inextricably to the infamous “guest house” incident that took place in Lucknow on June 2, 1995, and turned the SP and BSP into sworn enemies, seemingly to never come together again. This is what happened:
On June 1, 1995, Mulayam, who was then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, was informed that the BSP was about to pull the plug on his coalition government. Mulayam was taken by surprise because, despite visible strains in ties for the past few months, BSP chief Kanshi Ram had given no indication of his plans when the two leaders had met only a couple of days earlier. The SP-BSP coalition government was only a year and a half old then.
Several SP leaders were of the view that an attempt should be made to break the BSP to save the government. The following evening, on June 2, with the party leadership raising no explicit objections, some SP MLAs and district-level leaders reached the State Guest House in Lucknow, where Mayawati, Kanshi Ram’s closest aide and then general secretary of the BSP, was meeting her MLAs to discuss their next step.
What happened thereafter has since been infamously referred to as the “Guest House episode”.
MLAs and workers of the SP surrounded the guest house and went on the rampage, forcing Mayawati to lock herself in a room while they detained several of her MLAs, claiming they had defected to the SP.
Then BJP MLA Brahm Dutt Dwivedi, who was present, is widely believed to have stepped in protect Mayawati against possible physical assault by the SP leaders and workers. Then Lucknow SSP O P Singh was also criticised for not taking enough steps to prevent the violence.
In a report titled ‘Mulayam’s men attack BSP legislators’ meet’, The Indian Express said in its edition of June 3: “The Samajwadi Party workers, armed with rifles and weapons, barged into a meeting room of the BSP workers… and assaulted the BSP legislators, ‘kidnapping’ some of them. Senior BSP leaders, including Ms Mayavati, slipped into a suite reserved for her in the guest house.
Also read | The story of the Guest House
“The Lucknow SSP, Mr O P Singh, as well as his men, were a mute witness as the SP men snapped the telephone and power lines… and started beating the BSP MLAs with lathis. About 300 SP miscreants were led by over a dozen party MLAs, mostly with a criminal background.”
Under pressure from Congress leaders from UP, the P V Narasimha Rao government acted on Governor Motilal Vora’s recommendation and sacked Mulayam on June 3, without giving him a chance to prove his majority in the Assembly. Later that same evening, Mayawati took oath as Chief Minister, with outside support from the BJP and Janata Dal.
The guest house incident marked what appeared then and for long afterwards to be a permanent break between the SP and BSP — seemingly fixing forever Mayawati’s outlook towards Mulayam’s party, considered the torchbearer of social justice politics in UP.
The bitter parting out of which emerged India’s first Dalit Chief Minister put the SP and BSP on parallel tracks that could never meet — and the BSP went on to even partner twice with the “manuwadi” BJP, the party which it had always considered as being fundamentally opposed to the Bahujan interest.
Mandal vs Kamandal
Mulayam was especially bitter because it was he who had taken the initiative for the SP-BSP coalition. He had reached out to Kanshi Ram ahead of the Assembly elections of 1993, after President’s Rule imposed in the aftermath of the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992 ended.
Having become Chief Minister in 1989, Mulayam had built a national reputation for toughness by his promise to secure the Babri Masjid. The October 30 and November 2, 1990, firing on kar sevaks bolstered his secular image and was believed to have added to his appeal among Muslims.
Having parted ways with the Janata Dal, however, Mulayam suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1991 Assembly elections, in which his party got a mere 34 seats (12.5% votes) in the 425-member House. The Kamandal (Ram Temple movement) had trumped Mandal (social justice movement) — the BJP won 221 seats; the BSP 12 (9.5% votes).
Over the years, Mulayam has recollected that his decision to ally with the BSP was a response to a provocation from BJP leader L K Advani. According to Mulayam, Advani had, during a meeting of the National Integration Council at a time the Ram Temple movement was raging, challenged his alleged “pseudo-secularism”. In response, Mulayam had reached out to Kanshi Ram to bring Mandal and Bahujan together against the BJP.
In 1993, the SP-BSP alliance polled over 29% votes and won 176 seats — the SP contesting 256 seats and got 109, and the BSP contested 164 and won 67. The BJP polled 33% of the vote and won 177 seats. As the saffron party failed to secure additional support, Mulayam became Chief Minister of the SP-BSP alliance government.