JUST IN CASE
The disproportionate assets case against Mulayam gives Congress a tool to indulge in ‘friendly blackmail’
A reserved judgment in a nineyear-old case of disproportionate assets against Mulayam Singh Yadav hangs like the proverbial sword over the Samajwadi Party ( SP) chief. A request by the Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI) to “proceed further” against him is also pending before the Supreme Court. Mulayam knows that at a time when the Congress is scouting for pliant allies, this could be effective leverage to ensure his support to the UPA Government.
In 2003, a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court against Mulayam and his family by Vishwanath Chaturvedi, a member of the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress and the party’s candidate from Haidergarh during the 2002 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. However, once the court ordered a CBI enquiry against the Yadav clan, the case took on political rather than legal implications. First, in October 2007, CBI asked the court’s permission to proceed in its investigation. Two months later, it wanted to withdraw its application. In July 2007, SP had bailed out the UPA Government on the nuclear deal. But two years later, when relations between the two parties soured, CBI once again revived its earlier plea to investigate further. “CBI has become an instrument to save the Government,” says Chaturvedi, adding, “I can’t tell you how much the Congress has troubled me.”
Mulayam would agree for different reasons. He told the Supreme Court through a review petition filed on March 15, 2007, “CBI is mainly controlled by the home minister and presently there is a coalition Government with the Congress as the major party. CBI will act as a hand- maiden to the Congress.”
Unfortunately for Mulayam, the Congress is still in power at the Centre, heading another coalition. But this time, it needs the SP chief’s support for survival not just in Parliament but also for the presidential and vice-presidential elections due in July. UPA does not have enough numbers to ensure a win for its candidates. It needs the support of SP’S 68,768-strong electoral college. What must be worrying Mulayam is whether the Congress will use ‘friendly blackmail’ to ensure this support.
Chaturvedi also reveals how a senior Congress Cabinet minister in UPA 1 brokered a meeting between him and then SP general secretary Amar Singh in November 2007, where Singh asked him to drop the case. Chaturvedi claims another Cabinet minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal, later accused him of trying to break the then Congress- SP alliance by going ahead with the case ( see box).
Despite its stunning win in the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, SP is careful not to antagonise the UPA Government. When UPA ally Mamata Banerjee walked out of Parliament during the vote on amendments against the presidential address in March, it was SP and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party which bailed the Government out. Mayawati, too, has a case of disproportionate assets pending against her. Her plea against quashing criminal proceedings against her in the case is slated to come up in the Supreme Court on May 1.
The case against Mulayam is not slated to come up anytime soon. But as a Congress general secretary said with a smile, soon after the Uttar Pradesh poll results rolled out in March 2012, “We have ways to ensure Mulayam’s support at the Centre.” The smile notwithstanding, he wasn’t joking.