The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, government at the Centre could lose the support of a party that is not part of the coalition at the Centre, making it all the more dependent on support from its key ally the Left parties, which have been stalling key reforms.
Making a sensational allegation against unnamed Congress leaders, who she said were supporting people who wished to “eliminate her”, Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati threatened to withdraw outside support to UPA.
Even if BSP, with 19 Lok Sabha members, were to withdraw support, it would not necessarily impact the survival of the UPA government, provided the Left parties continue to support the regime from outside. To remain in power, UPA needs the support of 272 MPs.
Note of discord: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)
UPA itself has 224 MPs and the Left Front 59.
Mayawati said she was forced to call the press conference because of the Centre’s refusal to accede to her request for the elite special protection group security cover and the recent statements made by some Congress leaders against her and her party.
The chief minister was also miffed at the failure of the Centre to fast track her demand for a Rs80,000 crore assistance package to jump-start economic development in UP.
In the presidential elections, BSP had backed UPA candidate Pratibha Patil, who won the election by defeating Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
“If the relations between the Congress and BSP were to break down, there could be an even greater impact on the next government at the Centre,” said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank. “Some people were hoping for a mutually beneficial relationship between the Congress and the BSP outside Uttar Pradesh. However, a breakdown would practically rule out a non-Left, non-National Democratic Alliance coalition at the Centre.”
Mayawati’s threat to withdraw support came five days after Jayanti Natarajan, a spokesperson of the Congress party, issued a written statement blaming the Uttar Pradesh state government for the pre-dawn attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Rampur town on 1 January, in which seven CRPF personnel and a civilian were killed and the assailants escaped.
Targeting the chief minister in particular, Natarajan had said: “Ms Mayawati appears to be preoccupied with travelling around the country in order to build up her party. In the process, she should not lose focus on the primary and pressing importance of governance of a large and sensitive state....”
Analysts had ascribed the statement to increasing nervousness within the Congress at the rise of BSP, which has positioned itself as a champion of socially backward people. The party had dented the Congress’ prospects in the just-concluded elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, both of which were won by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
However, Mayawati said the Congress had only itself to blame for its losses in the two states. She added that the Congress would suffer more losses if it continued to harass her, claiming that the Congress was also plotting to frame her in fictitious cases. And she accused the Centre of preventing the Central Bureau of Investigation from submitting its final report in the case in which she is alleged to have assets disproportionate to her income.
Reacting to Mayawati’s allegations on Monday, Natarajan said while the Congress would request the Centre to provide all possible security to the UP chief minister, it was entirely Mayawati’s prerogative to take a political decision in her party’s best interests.