Lucknow: Two bitterly feuding former chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, who have earlier sparred over each others’ hairstyles and marital status, questioned the other’s mental health and even accused the other of conspiring to kill them, are likely to share the stage Friday for the first time in nearly 24 years.
A showstopper event that the state is keenly awaiting, rivals-turned-allies Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) are expected to publicly speak from the same dais in the latter’s constituency, Mainpuri.
Just like the ambitious and unnatural Uttar Pradesh mahagatbandhan, Mulayam and Mayawati’s enmity, which escalated after the infamous Lucknow guesthouse incident in June 1995, is the stuff of political folklore here. The event, if the arch foes actually turn up, will be epic, political observers say.
“A rally of the alliance will take place tomorrow at Mainpuri and another at Firozabad on Saturday,” said Udayveer Singh, spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party. “All senior leaders of the three political parties are likely to attend the two public meetings… Netaji (Mulayam Singh) will be present there in all likelihood.”
Lucknow Guest House episode
On 2 June 1995, the alliance forged by then CM Mulayam and BSP founder Kanshi Ram had been on the verge of collapse.
As turmoil grew in the coalition, a deal was brokered between the BSP and the BJP, following which a group of SP supporters gathered at the state guesthouse in Lucknow where Mayawati had been holding a meeting. Mayawati was forced to lock herself in a room as the SP workers allegedly tried to break the door and attack her.
With the help of a BJP leader, Mayawati escaped from the guesthouse late that night and, a day later, became the CM of Uttar Pradesh for the first time with the BJP’s support.
Decades of hostility
In the years that followed, hostility between the two parties and their leaders continued to escalate.
As power in the state changed hands between the two parties, inquiries were ordered, funds stopped for the other’s pet projects, government recruitments cancelled and licences withdrawn. The enmity between the two leaders has also found mention in the history of the BSP authored by Mayawati, a volume of which is released every year on her birthday.
The rivalry has also been marked by several personal attacks. Mulayam once called her a “parkati aurat (woman with clipped wings)”, referring to her short hair, and said at a rally in 2014 that he did not know how to address Mayawati — shrimati, kunwari or behenji.
The SP patriarch’s remarks invited a fresh attack from the BSP leader, who decided to call a press conference on the matter. During this media interaction, Mayawati suggested that Mulayam should be admitted into a mental asylum in Agra. She also launched a personal counter-attack, alleging that he did not treat his first wife right.
Alliance to oppose BJP in 2019
It was the SP’s generational shift that helped calm frayed nerves.
In 2012, when Mulayam’s son Akhilesh Yadav was elected the UP chief minister, this nasty war simmered down.
In July 2012, when Mayawati’s statue was vandalised in Lucknow, Akhilesh ensured that the statue was repaired overnight and the miscreants booked.
Seven years later, the two parties under Mayawati and Akhilesh came up with what many said was an impossible prospect. They held a joint press conference and announced that they would be contesting the Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh together as a front with the aim of defeating the BJP.
Their parties are now contesting 38 seats each out of the state’s 80 parliamentary constituencies in the keenly-watched polls, and will even take their alliance to the next UP assembly polls.