P Chidambaram inaugurated 300 bank branches and patted UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on the back, praising his skills in governance. He also noted that UP had large financial needs, which the Centre would look at and said he had discussed several proposals with the 39-year-old CM, who he invited to Delhi. "I assure the Chief Minister, his team and 'Netaji' (Mulayam Singh Yadav) that the government of India will stand by the Uttar Pradesh government," Mr Chidambaram said.
Clearly he had heard Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav complain this week, "Bihar has been given a package. What about Uttar Pradesh?" The use of the name "Netaji" - partymen and others close to Mulayam Singh call him that - was telling.
Akhilesh Yadav is the son of Netaji, the government's biggest baiter in the last one week. Mr Yadav senior has accused the Congress of being "too clever and cheating the people" with an eye on elections, miffed with reports that the Centre is considering granting special status and a financial package to Bihar, widely seen as an attempt to wean the Janata Dal-United, which rules the state, away from the BJP-led NDA. (Read: Congress 'cheats and is clever', says Mulayam Singh Yadav)
Mr Yadav provides external support to the Manmohan Singh government; support that has been made more crucial by the DMK walking out of the UPA this month. Yesterday he was quoted as telling partymen to start prepping for early general elections.
Elections are due only in mid-2014, but Mr Yadav said he expected polls by November this year and also that a non-BJP, non-Congress Third Front coalition would form government.
The BJP today dismissed a Third Front as irrelevant and asked Mulayam Singh Yadav, "If the Congress government bothers you so much, why don't you do something about it?" The party's Ravi Shankar Prasad said Mr Chidambaram's promise to UP today was a "lollipop". The government, Mr Prasad said, "is trying to bribe the Samajwadi Party". (Watch: 'Reluctant PM showing his true colours, say BJP)
On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that while there was the possibility of Mr Yadav withdrawing support, he was confident that his government would complete its full term. The Prime Minister also admitted that with the UPA's numbers depleted by the DMK's walkout last week, the government would have a tough time pushing important legislation in Parliament, but promised that reforms would continue. (Read: Mulayam may withdraw support, but govt will complete full term: PM)
With its two biggest allies the Trinamool Congress and DMK out of the UPA fold, the government is in a minority with 228 seats in the Lok Sabha. It counts heavily on Mr Yadav's 22 MPs and the BSP's 21 to help it graze past half-way mark in the House.
The JD-U, which has 20 very attractive seats in the Lok Sabha, is seeming increasingly estranged from its partner of many years, the BJP. The BJP is aware the Congress would like to fill that space.