In choppy waters, Mulayam swims against the tide
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Mulayam Singh Yadav has gone against the tide in opposing the Lokpal Bill in Parliament. The wily old player in Uttar Pradesh politics, who has taken the reins of the state back in his hands after letting son Akhilesh have a go at it, is going back to the caste calculations that have worked for him in the past. In the case of the Lokpal Bill, Mulayam's move stems from the fact that the Anna- or Arvind Kejriwal-led movement has failed to create any hysteria in the Hindi heartland. He is banking on the opposition to it not affecting his backward and Muslim vote banks, while earning him the sympathy of many who are against it but cannot come out in the open.
Earlier, he ignored a public outcry in fielding Shivkanya Kushwaha from Ghazipur for the coming parliamentary elections, over sitting party MP Radhey Mohan Singh. Shivkanya is the wife of health scam accused Babu Kushwaha. While other parties are skirting Kushwaha, Mulayam's eye is on the Kushwaha community vote. Mulayam has a precedent of seeing such a move paying off. In 1996, when he fielded bandit Phoolan Devi, he had been warned of losing support of the Thakurs. But she became MP and, till date, her Mallah community remains loyal to Mulayam.
Similar seat-by-seat calculations have led to his fielding don Atiq Ahmed from Sultanpur. This is quite a departure from 2012 when a big deal had been made of Akhilesh ensuring a ticket was denied to another muscleman, D P Yadav. The BJP's Varun Gandhi and the BSP's Pawan Pandey, also with criminal antecedents, are likely to contest from Sultanpur, and Mulayam calculates Atiq will boost the SP's chances not just in the seat but also in nearby areas. In 2009, Atiq had polled over one lakh Muslim votes in adjoining Pratapgarh.