No mere kingmaker
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The steady decline of UPA 2 and the failure of the BJP to work as a responsible opposition party has once again led regional leaders to move towards a third front with the national election approaching in 2014. Such efforts are not new, as since the decline of single party dominance in the late 1980s, regional leaders in strong positions in their home states, with enough members in Parliament to give them a bargaining position, have made claims to Central government. The latest to stake his claim is Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party in the key state of Uttar Pradesh, who believes that with the defeat of the Bahujan Samaj Party in the assembly elections earlier this year, it is the SP that can now play a role at the Centre and hopes to become prime minister in 2014.
Mulayam Singh's strength in state and national politics comes from his participation in three political formations of national importance in UP: the socialists, led by Ram Manohar Lohia in the immediate post-Independence period based upon the middle castes; the agrarian lobby that formed the Bharatiya Kranti Dal (BKD)/ Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD) under Charan Singh in the mid 1960s; and the landowning backward castes whose mobilisation took place simultaneously in the 1960s. It is the third group that today forms the main support-base of the SP. Following Charan Singh's death in 1987, the BKD/BLD split with the erstwhile socialists, regrouping under Mulayam Singh. During the late 1980s, UP experienced a second wave of backward caste mobilisation with the OBCs — the Ahirs, Koeris and Kurmis — entering politics in large numbers, making caste-based identity politics central. The SP formed in October 1992 by Mulayam Singh brought together old Lohiaite socialist groups, agrarian interests from the BKD/BLD, backward castes united by V. P. Singh's acceptance of the Mandal report and the Muslims opposing the BJP's Ram Mandir movement. The formation of this powerful BC/OBC party contributed to the rapid collapse of the Congress from 46 seats and 17.9 per cent vote share in the 1991 assembly elections to 28 seats and 15.11 per cent in 1993. The seat and vote share of the SP in assembly elections rose steadily from 34 seats and 12.5 per cent in 1991 to 224 seats and 29.15 per cent in 2007.
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