“Why is Mulayam Singh Yadav hacking his own support base?”
The assumption behind the question is fairly straightforward. With the decline of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the state’s substantial Muslim population turned to Mulayam as its Messiah. Then why is he alienating his vote bank in Muzaffarnagar with such diligence?
To begin with, how did he become a leader of Muslims?
As soon as Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister in 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launched an agitation to “liberate” Ram Janmbhoomi or the birthplace of Lord Rama in Ayodhya.
How to take the wind out of the VHP sails? Advised by his cousin, Arun Nehru, the prime minister proceeded to please the Hindus by opening the locks of the temple for worshipers.
Once that happened, the Sangh Parivar mounted the next phase of the campaign to have 275,000 shilas or bricks to be consecrated in village temples and carried to Ayodhya from all parts of India for the construction of the Ram temple. Having come so far on the saffron track, should Rajiv Gandhi turn back?
A nervous prime minister proceeded to permit the brick laying ceremony or “shila nyas” for a massive Ram Temple in Ayodhya. This was despite the court order prohibiting construction on ground which was claimed by both Muslims and Hindus. The Muslims were angry once again.
That the Congress was now almost shy of its secular platform became clear when Rajiv Gandhi turned up in Ayodhya to launch the party’s 1989 election campaign. He promised “Ram Rajya”, the Indian utopia.
For his flip-flops, Rajiv Gandhi was punished by the Indian voter. From 415 seats in a house of 543, he brought the party down to 197 seats.
What Rajiv Gandhi had merely initiated, P.V. Narasimha Rao perfected. The 1991 election had brought him to power but not given him a majority. BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a good friend. With Ayodhya as an issue of common interest, he was able to work out an entente with the Sangh Parivar which ensured his survival until 1996. In sullen silence, Muslims watched Congress turn saffron positive. It was part of this unstated entente that he did not impose President’s rule in Uttar Pradesh despite intelligence reports that Babri Masjid was in danger of being demolished. On Dec 6, 1992, the history of secular India changed.
After the demolition, there was no question of any Muslim support for the Congress.
It was during the spell of Muslim disenchantment with the Congress that Mulayam Singh Yadav came to power on the simple formula – Muslim plus Yadav plus bits and pieces from here and there.
Since the Congress in its present state is a threat to nobody, Mulayam may be forgiven for having become a little careless in Muzaffarnagar.
In any case, controlled communal tension is useful in ensuring continued Muslim support. Fear of the BJP is a requirement for both, the Congress and the Samajwadi party, to keep their Muslim vote bank in line. In Muzaffarnagar, this game of vote bank management appears to have gone out of control. Difficult to believe, though, that Mulayam did not know that planning for a major riot in Western Uttar Pradesh has been on for months.
Now, he has fallen back on a new contract system which has evolved in several states to manage vote banks in moments of crisis. Near Muzaffarnagar, happens to be the famous Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind seminary at Deoband. The head of Deoband, Maulana Arshad Madani, has mobilized volunteers to manage the relief camps. He is fully supportive of riot victims signing the affidavit that they will accept Rs.500,000 as compensation on the condition that they will never return to their villages.
So, the Maulana and Mulayam, hand in hand, are happily institutionalizing apartheid in an area once known for Hindu-Muslim amity.
It is a perfect arrangement. Mulayam has his grip on the vote bank through the reliable agency of the clergy. The congregation of the riot victims will bask in the Maulana’s benediction. The Maulana is in clover on several counts. He can count now on state support for everything. Also his place already secure in paradise, he will now make assurance doubly sure by administering therapeutic doses of faith on the battered congregation.
I suppose Mulayam is entitled to his Walter Mitty reveries. But a word of caution.
Is he aware that over 10,000 AAP volunteers are linking up on the social media in Lucknow?
(03.01.14. A senior commentator on diplomatic and political affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on [email protected] The views expressed are personal.)