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Not everything from the SP is mere posturing. But its target audience remains the Congress

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 20, 2009 10:40:11 pm

It is easy to view the Samajwadi Party with a certain amused detachment. Look at their general secretary,one could say — and these columns have. Amar Singh will talk to anybody,and tell everyone he’s talking to anybody; beyond a certain point the news that Amar Singh has triumphantly told a horde of reporters that he is meeting someone important or interesting doesn’t feel new,or surprising.

Indeed,one could be tempted into cynicism: is he,and the SP in general,really interested in whoever he’s meeting,or are they playing complex mind games? That instinct is something that must be resisted — and not in spite of the fact that it is the Samajwadi Party that we are discussing,but actually because of the party’s history.

What we are faced with today,for example,is a series of indications that the SP is trying to indicate that all wings of the BJP are not politically untouchable for them. What are the standard,realpolitik explanations? That the SP is indicating to its preferred alliance partner,the Congress,that the Congress had better take whatever deal the SP is willing to give it in UP,or that it is trying some nimble footwork to reduce the enormously negative fallout to its abortive embrace of the BJP’s former icon Kalyan Singh. One,or even both,of these explanations may indeed be applicable. But we should not assume that they are necessarily the whole story. And that is because the SP’s leader,in particular,is no believer in the politics of exclusion. For him,politics is truly the art of the possible: Mulayam Singh Yadav genuinely believes that politics is about talking,that it holds no place for permanent enemies. This was the subtext of the SP’s choice to vote for the UPA government in the Lok Sabha at the time of the vote of confidence in July; this has underlain his moves in the past,such as his preference to have Kalam as president even though it meant agreeing with the BJP.

This is not to say that he genuinely thinks that it is in his party’s best interest to actually ever ally with the BJP. What it means is that when Mulayam Singh Yadav says that the BJP — if shorn of the more problematic (central?) parts of its agenda — was something he could work with,those interested in the future structure of Indian politics should listen very carefully,and take him,the politician’s politician,at his word.

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