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Mulayam, Amar Singh keep everyone guessing

By George Iype in New Delhi
Last updated on: May 12, 2004 17:33 IST
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Less than 24 hours before votes are counted in the 14th general election, New Delhi is buzzing with political activity.

At the centre of all the action is Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is being seen as the 'king-maker' after the results are declared.

Mulayam Singh held discussions with Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and Congress leader S Jaipal Reddy for the better part of Wednesday morning while party General Secretary Amar Singh traveled from one meeting to another accompanied by close friend Reliance Vice-Chairman Anil Ambani.

The presence of Ambani, who was seen emerging from Amar Singh's car at Mulayam Singh's home, was interpreted by some as "corporate involvement in government formation."

But Amar Singh told the media that Ambani is in Delhi to discuss development projects in Uttar Pradesh.

"We are all for forming a secular government. But nothing has been decided. We will take the initiative of talking to other parties after the results are out tomorrow," the SP general secretary said.

Interestingly, Singh did not lash out at the BJP and said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is "a good friend of the SP."

He said the Congress has been very hostile to the SP in the past couple of weeks.

According to sources, at his meetings with Surjeet and other smaller parties, Mulayam Singh has ruled out the possibility of joining a government headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

Many believe Mulayam Singh may agree to a Sonia-led government if he is made deputy prime minister.

The SP's strategy of open lines of communication with both the Congress and BJP-led coalitions, which will allow the party to be flexible depending on which way the wind blows on Thursday.

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George Iype in New Delhi