New Delhi: The freeze-frame moment of today's Bharat bandh so far has been Mulayam Singh Yadav holding hands with the CPM's Sitaram Yechury. He even mentioned those two words a beleaguered Congress would rather not hear right now - Third Front.
The ruling party needs Mr Yadav to continue the external support he provides to the UPA government, which is in minority after Mamata Banerjee announced her exit. Mr Yadav is yet to spell out whether he will extend that arrangement and today's public bonhomie with the Left would have left the Congress rather uncomfortable.
But Mulayam watchers say, Congress, take heart. History has it that Mulayam Singh Yadav holding hands with someone does not guarantee permanent friendship or loyalty. Mr Yechury would have that tale to tell. The last time Mr Yadav was seen in public warmly holding hands with the Left leader was just before the Left and Congress parted ways over the Nuclear Deal in 2008. When the Left pulled the plug to end a very uncomfortable partnership, Mr Yadav had famously saved the Congress government during a Trust vote.
More recently, Mr Yadav was seen holding hands with the Congress' AK Antony as both veteran leaders walked down a corridor in Parliament House after Pranab Mukherjee filed his nomination papers for the Presidential elections. Mr Yadav had just been won over to support Mr Mukherjee's nomination and all was well with the world. It didn't take Mr Yadav long though to adopt his present anti-Congress stance.
Or ask Mamata Banerjee. Mr Yadav did not literally hold hands with her, but was politically aligned with the Trinamool Congress chief for all of two days to oppose Mr Mukherjee's nomination and embarrass the Congress by suggesting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would make a good President. After a few photo ops and startling statements, and before Ms Banerjee could finish saying Rashtrapati Bhawan, Mr Yadav had swung over to the other side and was holding hands with Mr Antony. Ms Banerjee was left standing politically isolated and very angry.