The Congress was apprehensive about the prospects of massive communal polarisation in the wake of the Ayodhya face-off between the VHP and SP but found a welcome opportunity once the riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar. For it made the BSP a 'better' political alternative and encouraged the Congress to tilt in its favour and in the process, get a share of the Dalit and Muslim votes.
The tilt is also evident from the fact that the CBI has decided to shut the disproportionate assets case against BSP chief Mayawati on Tuesday. While the Congress needs both the major UP parties for the survival of its government at times of crisis, the SP and BSP require the Congress-led government for reasons related to two 'C' factors: corruption and communalism. It is a politics of marriage between the 'secular' sides, with Mayawati emerging the more reliable option at the moment.
But then why Rahul criticised Mayawati?
But why then Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who showed who is the boss in the party a few days ago, attacked Mayawati at a press conference on Tuesday? Is there again a divergence between him and the party on this issue, just like the controversial ordinance aimed to shield convicted politicians?
This is an old drama also seen in the past. Even as the two parties ink a deal on the backstage, there is a calculated move to attack each other in the public. The script suits both sides, particularly the Congress. During the Bhatta-Parsaul violence of 2011 when Mayawati was the chief minister of UP, Rahul Gandhi visited the area and helped revive the party's morale for the next assembly polls. Mayawati, the BJP and SP called Gandhi's dharna a stunt but in effect, the criticism helped the Congress for it was seen as a party that is not ready to compromise with a repressive regime.
By taking on the BSP chief head on, Rahul Gandhi actually helps the party to gain weight in the key state despite having a weak organisation. Just like he stormed into a press meet in Delhi to trash an unethical ordinance backed by his own government, he took on the BSP chief saying the latter never allowed the Dalit leadership to grow.
Rahul's politics of ethics
This is a politics of ethics which Rahul Gandhi has been mastering to keep hopes alive about a fresh and untainted leadership of the Congress post 2014. As far as the real vote-bank politics is concerned, the back-stage deal between the two parties is taking care of it.
Sources said Madhusudan Mistry and Satish Mishra, the two close men of Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati respectively, have met over reaching a formal deal. Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi have also held talks, direct or indirect, to strike a deal for the 2014 elections. Both these parties have perceived the politics of polarisation of the SP and BJP as a common threat and a binding factor.
The Congress and BSP had forged a pre-poll alliance during the 1996 elections but both had fared badly then. This time, the presence of the Narendra Modi factor makes it even more challenging for them. Can they deal with the challenge successfully?