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Is the support to Congress leader Pramod Tiwari for a Rajya Sabha seat by the Samajwadi Party a personal gesture or part of a larger political game plan? Two days after the Samajwadi Party surprised many by foregoing one of its two Rajya Sabha seats for Tiwari, political circles wonder if this is linked to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and a precursor of political equations being forged at the national level. The Samajwadi Party refused to comment beyond that "Netaji" or party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav stands by old friends. The Congress state unit is silent. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it will expose the "unholy nexus" to the people. Political observers feel that with both the Samajwadi Party and the Congress likely to face voter disenchantment in Uttar Pradesh and, nationally, the two might bury the hatchet. "Mulayam Singh Yadav has been known for frequent flip-flops vis-a-vis his words and actions. It will not be surprising if the two collude again after the 2014 Lok Sabha election," says senior BJP leader Kalraj Mishra. Samajwadi Party insiders told IANS that their party was well aware that it cannot repeat the 2012 winning performance in assembly elections and wants to be seen on the right side of the Congress. Both parties share a common Muslim vote bank, and neither wants to be doing anything that might facilitate a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) victory in the Lok Sabha battle with Narendra Modi at the helm. "There is a huge wave against the Congress in the country as seen in the recent state elections. But we cannot discount the fact that for minorities the Congress still remains the best bet nationally," said a senior Samajwadi Party MP. He conceded that though there may be no official understanding between the two parties, tacit support for each other was certainly in the offing. Samajwadi Party leaders also point out that the party's disastrous showing in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where it drew a blank despite rallies by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, had forced party leaders to recalibrate its strategy for the 2014 general election. With the party pitching for Mulayam Singh as its prime ministerial candidate, the party strategists, informed sources said, wanted to be in the good books of the Congress which they feel might extend outside support to Mulayam Singh in the event a Third Front government becomes a reality. "The elections in Delhi have shown that people prefer a third option if they have one, over the Congress and the BJP. So our hopes pin on the outside support of the Congress," said a Samajwadi Party legislator. Samajwadi Party leaders are pinning hopes on winning 30 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh on its own with which they hope to build a pan-India Third Front -- an umbrella grouping which could also include the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, Janata Dal-United in Bihar, Janata Dal-Secular in Karnataka, the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh and the DMK in Tamil Nadu. There is of course the Left which has enjoyed close ties with Mulayam Singh. This is particularly true for the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which remains a force in Kerala and the main opposition in West bengal even after the Trinamool Congress ended Marxists' 34 years in power.

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