New Delhi: Two former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers, Samajwadi Party (SP) patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, shared the dais at a public meeting in Mainpuri on Friday, in a first in the ongoing campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
The move is significant as the 10 seats going to polls in the third phase of the elections, on 23 April, are in central Uttar Pradesh, a bastion of the SP’s Yadav voter base.
Mulayam’s support for his son and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was also present at the rally, is significant for another reason—the SP patriarch has so far opposed an alliance with the BSP.
“Mainpuri is our district and the people are our people. Today Mayawatiji is here and we welcome her and are very glad she is among us and I will not forgot this. I appeal to you that Mayawatiji should always be respected because whenever the need has arisen, she has supported us. We are very happy that she is here today to support us," Mulayam told the meeting.
He said the poor are unhappy and women are being discriminated against and ill-treated in the NDA regime, adding: “You should elect us with full majority. This is my request to all of you."
The two parties, which have opposed each other for more than 24 years, have decided to join hands in Uttar Pradesh to defeat the BJP. Uttar Pradesh sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha, making it the single-most important state in a general election.
Mayawati said the two parties had decided to fight the elections together despite past differences. “There is no doubt that under his (Mulayam’s) leadership and under the SP banner, people of all strata of society have come together and he has taken along people of all other backward classes," she said. “Unlike Prime Minister Modi, Mulayam Singh Yadav does not make false promises and does not come from a false background either. Mulayamji is a true leader and has a pedigree backing him.
“For the sake of the people and for the sake of the party we have to sometimes take decisions on the basis of what is best, given the present circumstances of the country. That is why, in Uttar Pradesh, we have decided to join hands with the SP to contest these polls," the BSP chief added.
Senior SP leaders said Akhilesh had to make an effort to convince Mulayam to campaign with Mayawati. The senior Yadav is contesting from Mainpuri, an SP bastion.
“There is no doubt that a section of senior leaders of the SP have been opposed to the alliance with Mayawati. Akhilesh had to speak to Mulayam for this public meeting," said a senior SP leader involved in organizing the meeting.
SP members said Mulayam continues to have a substantial connect with the Yadav voter base of central Uttar Pradesh and that the public meeting is an endorsement of the alliance by the senior Yadav.
“Mulayam is playing a grand game to protect and promote his son. That is why he is trying to keep BJP happy by praising Modi while allying with Mayawati," said A.K. Verma, political science professor at Christ Church College, Kanpur.