On the back foot, Ajit Singh is looking for new new friendshttps://indianexpress.com/article/explained/on-the-back-foot-ajit-singh-could-be-seeking-new-friends-2825830/

On the back foot, Ajit Singh is looking for new new friends

Although neither side has confirmed the alliance so far, the result of the meeting is likely to become clear by Tuesday, the last day for filing nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha elections.

File photo of Ajit Singh
File photo of Ajit Singh

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president, Ajit Singh’s, meeting with Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav on Sunday, has fueled speculation of a possible electoral alliance between the two for next year’s Assembly elections and the Jat leader being nominated to the Rajya Sabha with Mulayam’s help.

Although neither side has confirmed the alliance so far, the result of the meeting is likely to become clear by Tuesday, the last day for filing nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha elections. The meeting took place on the death anniversary of Singh’s father and Mulayam’s political mentor Chaudhary Charan Singh — it is claims over who inherited his legacy that led to bitterness between the two in 1989.

Singh’s power has considerably diminished in last two years. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he lost for the first time since 1989. The last two years represent the longest period since 1986 that he has not been an MP. This is also the first time since 1986 that he is without a bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi. He has been in the Rajya Sabha once, and spent six terms in the Lok Sabha.

Singh has been looking for support for almost two years. In January 2015, he offered support to BSP candidates for Legislative Council elections, but Mayawati could not reciprocate in any way. Singh then he has attempted a tie-up with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), but the negotiations failed as the two sides confirmed they were close to merger.

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RLD chief Ajit Singh met SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav at the latter’s Delhi residence Sunday.

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Before his meeting with Mulayam, he is also reported to have attempted an alliance with the BJP. For a while, he even tried to make a bunch of smaller parties come together.

In fact, Ajit Singh has somehow tried to cling to power in his three decades in politics. He has been a union minister with four different prime ministers between 1989 and 2014. He supported Mayawati-led BSP-BJP government in 2002. Then he withdrew support and helped Mulayam form government. In 2009 elections, he allied with BJP and managed to win five Lok sabha seats in west UP. Then, he allied with the Congress in the 2012 Assembly elections after getting the berth of civil aviation minister in UPA-2. He contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with Congress, and failed to win any seats.

Currently, RLD has eight MLAs and can’t even elect an MLC on its own. So Ajit Singh desperately needs support for his political survival. And the SP, with its weak presence in west UP and damage of communal riots, could do with his support. Mulayam has already welcomed estranged colleagues Beni Prasad Verma and Amar Singh back into the party.

However, how much SP and RLD will help each other at the polling booths is hard to say. Jats, RLD’s traditional supporters, concentrated in west UP, are aggressively being pursued by the BJP. And, in the areas dominated by Jats, the SP’s support base has been mainly of Muslims. The possibility of two communities coming together remains unsteady because of the rift created by 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar.

Nevertheless, leaders of both parties predict the alliance could send a signal of consolidation of backward castes, Yadavs and Jats, along with Muslims. Mulayam last week made a last-minute decision to send former BSP MP Surendra Nagar, a Gurjar leader, to Rajya Sabha. Gurjars are also one of the most influential castes in west.

In 2012, the SP was able to make significant inroads in west UP mostly because of overwhelming Muslim support. This time, it is up against BSP which is working on a Dalit-Muslim unity, and BJP, which is working for consolidation of Hindu votes in the region.