NEW DELHI: Mulayam Singh Yadav’s accusation that people staying in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar were not victims but enemy conspirators strikes at the heart of his minority politics but it is also in keeping with the comments he has been making lately that suggest his eagerness to tap into the Hindutva sentiment in a polarized atmosphere.
The startling remark about riot-hit Muslims appears a brazen bid to appear on the Hindu side of the religious polarization triggered by the Muzaffarnagar conflagration. Given the anger among Muslims over SP-ruled Uttar Pradesh government’s failure to check riots that rendered 50,000 Muslims homeless, the SP seems reconciled to losses in the elections.
Calling the affected Muslims political pawns is part of a recent pattern with ‘Maulana Mulayam’ seeing positives among the “communalists”. Only months back, he surprised party workers by praising former saffron poster boy L K Advani as truthful and honest. He also told an SP rally last month that the Centre was planning to trap Narendra Modi, a comment seen as sympathizing with the “communalist” Gujarat leader. The Yadav chieftain has also urged partymen to learn from BJP about staying disciplined and away from goondaism.
That SP would pander to Hindus on communal grounds seems far-fetched since Muslims form the core of its vote base but it may be a desperate strategy since it is anyways under the threat of losing Muslims. But the comment about Muzaffarnagar could be a way of softening the anger of Hindus against SP’s “minority appeasement”.
The larger idea would be to check the intrusion of Modi-led BJP into its rural OBC base that BJP is hoping to win over with the face of the Gujarat strongman, a politics that traces back to the times of Kalyan Singh who, being a backward, made a serious dent into the SP vote base.
If it is difficult for SP to make the ideological crossover overnight but the party may feel under pressure to try out new strategies, caught as it is between the anger of both Hindus and Muslims over riots.
The situation in western UP has blown up on SP. Mulayam is seen to be a willing partner in letting the situation drift because religious polarization traditionally consolidates Muslims behind the muscular minority politics of SP. The failure of the administrative machinery to nip the visible problem in the bud is seen as part of that strategy.
Unfortunately for SP, the situation spiralled out of control and ended up making the minorities angry, with rivals BSP and Congress hoping to win them over while BJP looks to tap sections of Hindus. The pictures of Muzaffarnagar relief camps of shivering homeless and dying infants is carrying the message to other parts of the state, threatening Mulayam even further.