Former Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh may be down but not out, yet. Amid talk of a larger Opposition unity, Mahagathbandhan, or a federal front, Singh is quietly weighing his options. The fact is everyone in the Uttar Pradesh BJP is talking about Singh’s newfound love for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Quietly stoking Singh’s ambitions are two political realities of Uttar Pradesh: first, the socialist citadel of Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party patriarch, lies almost in ruins following his parting of ways with his son and former Chief Minister Akhilesh.
Second, and more significantly, is the kind of attention the erswhile acolyte of Mulayam was able to grab from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who on Sunday referred to Singh as one who held “many secrets of politician-industrialist hobnobbing behind the curtains.” Little doubt then top state BJP leaders have taken the wily Thakur seriously, triggering a buzz in UP political circles.
Singh told IANS that while he “certainly” had no plans to join the BJP, he indeed was “an admirer of Modi” and that “the rest of my life is dedicated to him.” He said he has started “thinking as an ordinary Indian voter” and sees Prime Minister Modi as the “best bet to take the country forward”.
“I am an outcast and a dumped leader of the Samajwadi Party. The fact remains that the entire country, across the political spectrum, knows that the personality and work of Modi towers much above all of them put together,” he said. His sudden effusiveness about Modi became self-evident when during an event in the state capital on Sunday, the Prime Minister walked up to him and shook hands.
“(If) I were to choose among (Bahujan Samaj Party chief) Mayawati, (West Bengal Chief Minister and an aspiring archtect of federal font) Mamata Banerjee and Modi as a prime ministerial candidate, my vote certainly is for the last M — Modi,” he said.
Referrring to the “unholy and opportunistic alliance” between his political alma mater SP and the BSP, he said it “could never be my choice”. He however ruled out any possibility of his immediate joining the BJP. “I am not aware of any such activity in the offing,” he said. Sources in the state BJP, who till recently were uncomfortable with the idea of the Thakur getting into the party fold, are now appriciative of his position.
“The fact that the Prime Minister showed regard for Amar Singh is indeed a signal for the party leaders and the cadre,” said a senior minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. And this very well showed up in the events that unfolded soon after Modi flew out of the state.
Not only did Amar Singh drive to the 5, Kalidas Marg, the residence of the Chief Minister but was also seen rubbing shoulders with the CM and his ministers. The event was flagging off of two electric buses. Singh shared the seat with top BJP leaders and ministers along with the chairman emeritus of the Essel Group Subhash Chandra. The bonhomie, plus the saffron kurta of Amar Singh, were not missed by anyone.
Ruling party startegists went to the extent of comparing him with Vibhishan, the brother of Ravan, the demon-king of Lanka in the Ramayana who let out several secrets of his brother to Lord Rama. “Thakur-sahib has been the custodian of many secrets of the SP leaders for the past two decades and would definitely be an asset to the BJP as we gear up to take on the SP-BSP combine in 2019,” said a party general secretary.
Amar Singh’s proximity with another SP leader and estranged uncle of Akhilesh Yadav, Shivpal Singh, is well known. BJP leaders say they are hopeful that Thakur can stir up controversies in the Yadav clan again as he did in 2017 when the division in the Yadav family led to an electoral wipeout of the SP in the state Assembly elections. How well the BJP gameplan plays out or how the calculations of the ready-for-revenge Amar Singh pay off, only time will tell. But one party that finds itself in a tight spot following Singh’s remarks in the past two days is the state Samajwadi Party.