New Delhi: A lot of qualities go into making an acceptable and successful prime minister. Trust and reliability are two of these factors. If you do not trust and rely on someone, on what basis would you make him or her prime minister? Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati have lots of disqualifications for the top job, but because they are utterly untrustworthy and lack reliability, they are rendered more unfit to occupy the South Block corner office. After public posturings against FDI in multi-brand retail, they went ahead and bailed out the government in the Lok Sabha. In this, Mulayam Yadav’s volte face was worse, whilst Mayawati has suddenly discovered the virtues of so-called secularism in UPA-2 to justify her action. The public will teach them a lesson.

If you conduct a secret ballot amongst active politicians, there would be overwhelming opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail. The fears about foreign multi-brand retail are well-founded. Even so, you may take a stand in favour of it. To take a position and stick to it has its pluses. Chandrasekhar, a former PM, was known for such courage. Nearly all the former prime ministers (barring perhaps H.D.Deve Gowda) have taken strong positions when necessary. The prime minister’s office demands that quality. The buck stops there or at least should.

Many people have many disagreements with Mamata Bannerjee. Some of them are justified and others not. But no one can accuse her of abandoning her principles. She said she was opposed to Pranab Mukherjee as President. She tried to put up another candidate. She depended on Mulayam Singh Yadav to get a consensus built around the former President, A.P.J.Abdul Kalam. Mulayam back-stabbed Mamata. Once Mulayam’s backing proved elusive, Abdul Kalam lost interest. Eventually, Mamata Bannerjee had to eat humble pie. That would please the anti-Mamata sections. But consider why she failed. Because she stood her ground. Her principles were more important to her than any temporary loss of face.

Sadly, cleverness is celebrated today in politics whilst steadfastness, being principled, adhering to values, etc, are laughed at. Which is why Mamata is badmouthed whilst characters such as Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari are the toast of the season. (And now Kamal Nath, to be sure.) A government which depends on expensive lawyers to defend it is sure to be rotten at the core, which UPA-2 is, and sooner or later, such a government will go down, as UPA-2 will. But this fascination with lawyers, too-clever arguments, and so forth, is destroying the good and the valuable. It would make politics a more worthless place than now. And when the process reaches its peak, voters will react with fear and anger, and back the outliers, people like Arvind Kejriwal, and from such shocks, mainstream parties will take years to recover.

For the present, Mulayam Singh and Mayawati will find themselves reviled outside Parliament. The Left parties of course are no longer going to trust him, but the voters, excepting their captive constituencies, will make distance from them. The most immediately affected will be Mulayam Yadav. He is headed for a rout in Uttar Pradesh in the general elections. His son, Akhilesh, runs a miserable state government, and anti-incumbency sentiments and Mulayam’s basic unworthiness will finish the Samajwadi party in the elections. All the anger against UPA-2 misrule will get directed at Mulayam and his party. From this, there is no escape. And whilst Mayawati may feel secure with the Dalit vote, she will not be able to stitch together a coalition of interests which brought her to power on her own in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress will crash out as before in the state, and only the Bharatiya Janata Party will do well, although this goes against conventional wisdom.

Voters like their leaders to be truthful and reliable. Why would voters want it otherwise? Sometimes, voters may be deflected from this purpose. But for the most part, they put a premium on honesty and reliability. And when it comes to choosing a prime minister, these are qualities that stand out and most count. On these benchmarks, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati fail. To counter the public disgust generated by this action, Mulayam Singh Yadav may make repairing statements against FDI in multi-brand retail, but they wouldn’t ascend his graph.

Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav have been found out.