Miss Mayawati's dramatically timed announcement to withdraw support to the UPA government created consternation and aroused speculation. The overwhelming view was that she had hammered the last nail in the Indo-US N-Deal's coffin. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has 17 Lok Sabha MPs. If in addition to the BSP the Left withdraws support the Congress would be left with 220 MPs in the House. Even if Mulayam Singh's 39 MPs were to extend support to the UPA it would still fall short by over a dozen votes. That was why Mayawati's withdrawal was thought to sound the N-deal's death knell.
It is possible that this conjecture is correct. It would be foolhardy to make firm predictions about the conduct of Indian political parties given the Byzantine intrigues and opportunistic somersaults that characterize them. But there does seem a possibility that Mayawati's withdrawal may not signal the demise of the N-deal but its survival. To appreciate that possibility the motives and calculations that impelled her need to be assessed.
There are strong indications that Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party (SP) will ally with the Congress in the next polls. The withdrawal of the disproportionate assets case against Mualayam Singh, and more recently the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) relief offered to Mulayam's buddy Sahara group boss Subroto Roy, after the Supreme Court's ruling on his affairs, suggest that relations have warmed up between Congress and SP. Amar Singh's newfound cordiality with 10 Jan path merely reinforces this view. It makes electoral sense. SP and Congress need each other to checkmate the BSP's advance and the BJP's possible revival.
It is likely that Mayawati became aware that the Congress-SP alliance had been clinched. She could not therefore continue supporting the UPA and become through default part of the same alliance. She could only protect her turf by clearly demarcating its boundary. Does that imply she will help topple the government? BSP is the only party at present well prepared to face early polls.
And yet, Mayawati's response at the press conference to the question whether she would support a no-trust motion against the UPA government was curious. She said: 'In case of a no-confidence motion against the government, the party will look into the merits of the issue before taking a decision to support or oppose the motion.' She read this out from a carefully prepared statement. She has not as yet expressed any clear views about the N-deal. She can condemn it or support it. She can claim it meets energy requirements of the nation. She might also wait and see how the government reacts to her objections against the Taj Corridor case and the case about disproportionate assets filed against her. After all, the government withdrew cases against Laloo Yadav and Mulayam Singh. Can she not demand a level playing field?