Mayawati has done it again. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief is keeping the Congress on tenterhooks over its decision whether to back the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and its reform initiatives, including the controversial move to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
The support of the BSP, which has 21 members in the Lok Sabha, is critical for the UPA, which is in minority in both the houses of Parliament. The BSP national executive and the parliamentary board have left it to her to take a final call on this. While addressing a massive rally in Lucknow that launched her attempt to reconnect with voters after the BSP’s defeat seven months ago, the former chief minister had said her party would take a decision on the subject the following day.
The BSP’s move to defer its decision on issue-based support to the UPA is significant, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court’s observation--on the same day of the public rally--that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is free to probe the disproportionate assets case against Mayawati, if permission is granted by the state government. The apex court’s observation seems to have tied Mayawati’s hands again. Mayawati and the BSP were relieved when the apex court had quashed the disproportionate assets case against her, censuring the CBI for “exceeding its brief” to investigate the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister. The court on 6 July said the CBI’s investigation was unwarranted as there was no material evidence against Mayawati. This was a major political victory for Mayawati, who always had this case hanging over her head like the sword of Damocles, making her dependent on the party in power at the Centre. However, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued notices to her and the CBI on a petition seeking review of the 6 July judgment. The court’s decision came after senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, appearing for an intervener, contended that several facts on record were contrary to the finding recorded in the judgement.
If the opposition’s criticism that the Centre is using the CBI to ensure its political stability is to be believed, the fresh developments will take the relation between Congress and BSP to a mutually dependent level. With the notices already issued, CBI has to take a stand on whether it is going to pursue the case against Mayawati when it comes up for hearing. Congress leaders, who publicly reject linking the case with politics, privately admit that the prospects of opening up the disproportionate asset case would be a good “bargaining point” between the two parties.
Mayawati is not in a hurry to declare her party’s support for the UPA. Archrival Samajwadi Party joining hands with the opposition resisting FDI in retail has obviously put the BSP in a fix. It is also confused over voters’ reaction to overseas investment in multi-brand retail and made it clear that the party would not oppose foreign retailers blindly. So the BSP supremo is waiting – for the next move from her not-so-friendly political ally.