March 13, 2014

THE RETURN OF THE KRAKEN


AMAR SINGH JOINS RLD TO REJUVENATE HIS POLITICAL CAREER

Who is creepier of the two? Amar Singh (Left) or the Kraken (Right)
I enjoy watching movies based on mythology and one of my favorites is the Clash of the Titans. All of you who have seen the movie will recollect the plot where Hades - the God of the Underworld revives the dreaded monster Kraken to strike fear in the minds of the people and make them respect the Gods. Of course, his sinister aim is to depose his brother Zeus who had tricked him earlier. Just like in the movie, the Kraken of Indian politics - Amar Singh is back from his political hibernation of four years; in fact the old guy is back with a bang. Earlier this week, the former Samajwadi Party leader joined Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). While age may have caught up with him, he still spoke like a Neta, apologizing for his remarks he had made earlier while he was associated with Mulayum's outfit and pledged his allegiance to Sonia Gandhi. Flanked by his protege Jaya Pradha, the only Bollywood personality who was by his side when he was unwell, Singh said that he was still open to the idea of joining the Congress, if invited by the UPA Chairperson to do so. The controversial businessman cum political has seen both the ups an downs of Rajneeti over the last six years. The 2014 election is going to be the most important battle of Singh's political career. A victory will be a fresh lease of life whereas a defeat will see him meet the same fate that Kraken did in the Hollywood movie I referred to earlier.

The Highs and the Lows: While he is controversy's favorite child, the former SP leader will be widely remembered for his role in the Indo-Nuclear deal. If you think that Amar Singh played a key role in the negotiation with US officials then you are absolutely wrong. All these high-level discussions are too much for the 'pea-brained' Amar to handle. While you can laugh on his knowledge, you just cannot deny that he can play his cards really well. As the Left withdrew their outside support to the UPA I government over the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, Mulayum Singh and the Samajwadi Party rushed to fill in the numbers, making sure that Manmohan Singh's only tough decision in his decade long tenure was passed in the Parliament. Amar Singh who was then a member of the Rajya Sabha from UP and the General Secretary of the SP played a crucial role in this episode. In fact, he was accused of trying to bribe three BJP MPs to vote in favor of the Bill. The friendship between the INC and the SP was short lived; as they went to the polls in 2009 without any pre-poll agreement, the two parties ended with 21 and 23 seats each. However, Mulayum's dream of becoming the 'King-Maker' in Delhi was shattered as the Congress crossed the 200 mark on its own and the UPA won a clear majority. Besides, it was in the same year that differences between two of Mulayum's top lieutenants - Amar and party's Muslim face Azam Khan came into prominence over Jaya Pradha's nomination from the Rampur constituency. At that time, the SP chief had reiterated his faith in Singh and expelled Khan for six years.

However, Amar Singh's fortunes began to slide in the later half of 2009. The figures of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls shocked Mulayum to the core. The BSP, in spite of being in power for nearly three year had the largest vote share of 27 percent whereas the Muslims, one of SP's primary vote bank were drifting to the Congress. With his eyes on the 2012 state polls (Link), Mulayum started wooing Amar's bete noire Azam Khan. Besides, the former General Secretary's high profile life style and Bollywood connections were seen as a stark contrast to the principal of Socialism which is 'supposed' to be SP's ideology by many loyalists. In January 2010, Amar Singh resigned from all party post and the following month was officially thrown out of the party. The next four years saw the shrewd politician see the lowest of lows. Many of his high society friends including Bade Bhaiyya, a certain Amitabh Bachchan refused to stand up for him. In fact, Jaya Bachchan who was a MP in the Upper House refused to resign in protest to the treatment meted out to her Devarji (Brother-in-law). The release of the 2006 tapes which shows him talking to politicians, Bollywood personalities, journalists and others proved to be a major embarrassment for him. In September 2011, he was jailed for a few days by the Supreme Court under the Prevention of Corruption Act for his alleged role in offering bribe to three BJP MPs in 2009. He formed a new political party - the Rashtriya Lok Manch but the experiment was a failure. For the next two years, the old war horse spent most of his time in hospital with many writing him off. However, in what seems to be a final stand, he has joined Chaudhary Ajit Singh's RLD along with aide Jaya Pradha in an attempt to salvage his political career.

Joining the RLD: As he was readying for his political comeback, it is certain that Amar would have weighed all his options wisely. Considering the fact that he was never a mass leader, reviving the now defunct Lok Manch was not an option. Although UP CM Akhilesh Yadav had recently mentioned him while speaking to the press, there was no way he was joining Mulayum back, at least after the humiliation he had faced earlier. Walking into the BJP would hurt his 'secular' credentials. In fact, Amar would have loved to join the Congress. It was speculated that Jaya Pradha was in touch with certain state Congress leaders to contest on an INC ticket. However, her demand to 'rehabilitate' her political mentor was something that the party thought could hurt it politically, considering the many controversies that Singh has courted in the past. As such, the only feasible option seems to have been the Rashtriya Lok Dal. Remember the three Singhs - Mulayum, Ajit and Amar were a part of the same government earlier when the SP and the RLD were allies in Lucknow. Secondly, with Ajit Singh joining the UPA, Amar would still be a part of the Congress-led coalition, if not the INC itself. It is very much certain that Amar's entry into the RLD had the approval of the Congress High Command.

How will the RLD benefit? Chaudhary Ajit Singh has been the 'most loyal' ally of the Congress in UPA II. However, like all constituents of the UPA, it is facing acute anti-incumbency. And to add to it, the Muzaffarnagar riots (Link) in Western UP has led to a 'trust-deficit' between the Jats and the Muslims, the two communities from where Ajit draws high strength. It is believed that the Jats are moving towards the BJP whereas the Muslims might go with the Congress or even the BSP. As such, Chaudhary is putting a lot of pressure on the Congress to help him in the elections. Two of the 5 MPs from Ajit Singh's party who had won the last elections have been expelled for anti-party activities. The Manmohan regime's decision to bring Jats under the ambit of OBC reservation was a clear move to earn brownie points in Haryana, Rajasthan and UP. Certainly, it is going to benefit the RLD in wooing back the community too. 

Secondly, with Jaya Pradha having won Lok Sabha polls from UP twice in the past, her entry into the outfit may increase Ajit's final tally by one. Of course, Ajit Singh has to carry the baggage of Amar's multiple controversies and flip flops from the past which opponents will use to embarrass him and his outfit. However, in the upcoming battle royal, it seems to be a price that the RLD chief is willing to pay. Meanwhile, the Congress and the RLD have finalized their seat-sharing formula for the upcoming polls with eight seats going into the latter's kitty. Jayant Chaudhary, the son and the successor of the party chief is likely to contest from Mathura. It is believed that Jaya will may contest from Bijnor whereas the Kraken, I mean Amar is certain to fight the elections from Fatehpur-Sikri.