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08 January 2010

Amar Singh Cannot Do Without Politics

... even if politics decides to do without him
Surajit Dasgupta
Much caricatured as he is for turning the Samajwadi Party from a club of socialists into that of socialites (former party member Raj Babbar’s accusation), Amar Singh’s separation from the party is unthinkable... well, almost! For long, the man has been the public face of the SP, perhaps to a greater degree than its all-in-all Mulayam Singh Yadav is, thanks to this being the age of television and the fact that Singh has an incorrigible penchant for antics. Purporting reasons of health and family for his resignation from all party posts held by him, the high-profile Thakur has locked horns with the dynastic and nepotic Yadav that has been ruling the party roost with his loaded sarcasms. While the Yadavs cannot skirt the issue of a series of disastrous shows at the recent elections, owing much to the voter’s disillusionment with a single family rule — the latest instance of which was the drubbing the party received in the form of Mulayam’s bahu Dimple Yadav losing the Agra constituency — Amar Singh himself cannot be above reproach for pushing the loyal Muslim votaries of the party away with his ill-conceived advice to the leadership to ally with Kalyan Singh who, to the erstwhile devoted constituency, is the ‘villain’ of the Babri Masjid demolition. The immediate fallout of the alliance was seen in Azam Khan’s public spat with Amar Singh and his parting of ways with the faction then driven by the counsel of the latter. The consequence is now history; as the percentage garnered by the SP declined, the party could not cash in on the public disenchantment with Mayawati’s ‘social engineering’, and the underdog Congress staged a comeback in Uttar Pradesh to the psephologist’s utter bewilderment.

As much as the result was a reminder to the BJP that countering the Mandal with the kamandal no longer works, it was also a pointer to parties like the SP that carved its own niche from among the electorate by mobilising farmers in the name of socialism, in a bid to create yet another vote-bank distinct from the one that was targeted by VP Singh. If the potency of the Muslim-Yadav combine reduced due to what many Muslim leaders saw as the SP’s tacit deals with the BJP off and on, the rest of the followers’ base shrunk as the party’s agenda was trivialised by the Kolkata-based merchant’s partying with Bollywood stars and Page 3 upstarts alike. In any event, that the crowds drawn by star campaigners translate to hard votes is suspect, and bringing back Shahid Siddiqui, Azam Khan, Raj Babbar and Beni Prasad Verma to the party fold makes eminent political sense, which would be but difficult if Singh continues to be in the SP. Moreover, the Thakurs never stuck to the party, looking up to Singh to make theirs a caste that is not inconsequential in Uttar Pradesh politics. Now, that makes the man recuperating in Dubai dispensable.

But will a persona like his be redundant also for politics? And what about the celebrities who needed his help to lift their sagging fortunes? It’s safe to guess not all of them will bet on this old horse if it no longer pulls the carriage of some establishment along. Politics is, like the Mafia warns its operatives in the underworld, a one-way entry. You can enter it at will, but not quit when you want to. If you dare, a fate worse than death awaits: nobody recognises you exist. That would be tough for a man who is habituated to practising his profession in the focus of arc lights.

Of course, mincing some words, Amar Singh has not ruled out his entry into another political party. He says it’s any such party that has to make the first move. It will do him a world of good to realise that a no-first-use policy does not work at the political battlefront. The signs that Singh’s time is running out are telling, if not ominous; the other day, his ‘bade bhai’ Amitabh Bachchan graced a Narendra Modi show, the superstar’s first ‘apolitical’ appearance in an event organised by a party other than the SP! Uttar Pradesh can do without Amar Singh; arguably, Amar Singh can do without Uttar Pradesh too. Before he begins his second innings, he must identify his USP that he has so far been reluctant to admit because that would have been politically incorrect. The power texture of Mumbai, where politicians, film actors, underworld and touts of all hues mingle, is where this man can seamlessly fit in. It would serve him better than what would turning incognito for the rest of his kidney-transplanted life be.

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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.