Sunday, February 8, 2009

All in the name of Lord Rama…

February 8, 2009

By Dilip Awasthi
Ram Bhakt Kalyan is on a special assignment. The Hindutva protagonist of yesterday is busy managing Muslim politics for his rediscovered friend Mulayam Singh Yadav. After issuing a letter to the press in Lucknow on February 4, Kalyan Singh issued another statement the next day in Delhi ``owning up the responsibility of Babri mosque demolition’’ so that Muslims do not fall apart from the Samajwadi Party fold.

How this ``owning up the responsibility’’ will pacify Muslims is a mystery because Kalyan Singh has all through brandished the Ayodhya demolition as a medal of pride. That he was squarely responsible for allowing the pulling down of the mosque is amply proved by the dismissal of his government on December 6, 1992, his trial as the main accused by the Liberhan commission and finally his one-day conviction by the Supreme Court on October 24, 1994.

Some famous Kalyan Singh quotes further underline his staunch stand on the issue. “I will appear in the Supreme Court on 19 January and will say that I was responsible for Ayodhya…”(Press conference December 19, 1992); “Let them try and build a mosque there and we will have a bigger agitation….”(Press conference January 11, 1993): “I am thankful to Bhagwan Ram that he chose me as the medium….”(Public meeting in Shikohabad February 21, 1993); “Demolition was an act of God. I have no regrets, no repentance, no sorrow, and no grief...(Statement before Liberhan commission on December 3, 2004). There are at least a dozen more such revealing quotes from the years gone by.

It always is fruitful to revisit Kalyan Singh’s public statements because he emerges as a perennial jumping jack of UP politics. Historically he seldom means what he says. On November 2, 1991 he made four promises before the National Integration Council (NIC) in Delhi, which included “complete security to disputed structure”. In a press conference on April 22, 1992 he says, “ I am not their (central government’s) `patwari’ (revenue record keeper) that they keep ordering me for documents…my party and I myself are committed to building the new Ram temple….”

On May 13, 1992 Kalyan says referring to NIC team’s Ayodhya visit on April 7, “The report of NIC team about demolishing of temples around the disputed site is baseless, biased and preconceived…” Finally on November 23, 1992, just 12 days before the demolition Kalyan boycotts the NIC meeting in New Delhi. On November 28, 1992, the Supreme Court finds his government’s reassuring affidavit `emphatic’ and decides to allow `symbolic karseva’ on December 6. How well Kalyan Singh kept all his promises needs no elaboration.

In his clarification letter of February 4 last Kalyan Singh states: “ Mulayam Singh and I have become friends. This is no political pact. No conditions are set in friendship and in our friendship there are none…this friendship has four purposes including dispensing social justice to the downtrodden and backwards...” Now consider this oratory in a public meeting in Mughalsarai (Varanasi) on September 20,1996, “ Do you know who was behind Purulia arms droppings? He (Mulayam) is traitor. CBI should inquire into Mulayam Singh’s ISI links…” And what he said in a public meeting in Varanasi in presence of BJP national president Rajnath Singh on December 1, 2005 is also worth a consideration. “If Mulayam Singh incites a communal riot, just give him a fiting reply. Dangaa rokna ho to ek ke badle chaar maro, dangaa ruk jayega…” A national news channel recently replayed video of this particular statement.

Kalyan Singh has not joined Mulayam camp for the first time. The Samajwadi Party had contested 2002 assembly elections in a pact with Kalyan Singh’s Rashtriya Kranti Party (RKP), which was formed after he was ousted from BJP in November 1999. Kalyan Singh’s main strength in the state is said to be the Lodh votes which comprise nearly three percent of the electorate in UP. The 2002 results candidly speak of Kalyan Singh’s net political worth. The RKP contested 335 seats and could win only four seats of which Kalyan Singh won two. The party’s vote share was a paltry 3.39%. Kalyan Singh campaigned against the BJP full throttle and supposedly damaged his erstwhile party’s chances in around 30 seats. That was about all.

But this time on when the BJP, as it is, is quite down and out in UP at least, Kalyan Singh could be cutting both ways for Mulayam Singh Yadav and his party.--------------------------

Friday, February 6, 2009

Muslims and the drag-n-drop game

February 3, 2009
By Dilip Awasthi
The drag and drop technique is surely much more handy in present day politics than in computers. Drag hordes in from the rival camp and drop them high and dry after pocketing their votes. Muslims have faced this more than any voting bloc in the recent times. As the political parties go in the final leg of preparations for the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, Muslims this time may be probing for more options.

Mulayam Singh’s clarification on Monday on Babri Masjid demolition and Kalyan Singh apart, the Muslim vote bank looks up for the grabs for all and sundry. For the first time since 1992, the Muslim community looks uncertain about its safe haven – the SP. Post Mulayam Singh-Kalyan Singh bear hug, the SP does not seem to be their unquestioned political bastion anymore.

The Muslim vote bloc unflinchingly has stuck to Mulayam Singh and his party ever since 1989 and till 2004 Lok Sabha elections. Despite adverse speculations at the hustings, Muslims have always turned in almost en bloc for the SP on the D-day. Their percentages in favour of bicycle symbol have been as high as 65-70 in 1993 and 1996 assembly elections. However, in 2002 Vidhan Sabha elections, the percentage went down to around 55 as BSP also positioned itself to share the cake. .

What Muslims have meant for the SP is clearly reflected by the statistics. In 2002 elections, of the 118 assembly seats where Muslims form 15% or more electorate, the SP won 28 seats, BSP 16, the BJP as backlash 19 seats and the Congress just six seats. Another important indicator is the Rohilkhand region having 50 seats where Muslims comprise at least 25% electorate in most seats. The SP won 21 seats against 10 of BJP and nine of BSP in 2002, 15 against 21 of BJP and five of BSP in 1996 and 16 against 24 of BJP and none of BSP in 1993. The Congress won three, five and three seats respectively in this region in the three elections. In the 2004 Lok Sabha election, the SP won three of the four seats in this region against BJP’s one seat. The BSP drew a blank but polled 26.98% votes against SP’s 32.15%.

SP’s charisma for Muslims seemed weaning out in 2007 assembly elections as BSP virtually ran a rout. Of the 118 Vidhan Sabha seats with 15% or more Mulsim votes
BSP won 34 seats, followed by SP’s 20, BJP’s 10 and four of Congress. Similarly of the
50 Rohilkhand seat BSP won 25, followed by merely 13 of SP, eight of BJP and one of Congress. Estimates indicate that by winning 206 seats in 2007, the BSP cornered nearly 45% Muslim votes in the state whereas SP could manage just 97 seats and could get support of 31% Muslims.

A fragmented Muslim community still would have enough lure for political parties in the impending Lok Sabha elections. Though its capacity to swing fortunes stands eroded, but in the light of Mulayam-Kalyan bonhomie, the BSP and Congress have every reason to smile in anticipation. The biggest fear, which Muslims would have from Mayawati, is her past record specially of joining hands with the BJP twice for coming to power. This is still a distinct possibility after the 2009 Lok Sabha results as Mayawati has distanced herself from the Congress and the BJP might need her again in case it comes close to forming a government at the centre. Muslims grudge that she had campaigned for Modi in Gujrat in 2002 elections. SP’s Azam Khan on March 31, 2007 also accused her for calling Muslims “traitors” in a rally in Roorkee in September, 1993. The SP also claimed to have video evidence to this effect.

On the other hand the next possible option is a beleaguered Congress, which does not look like winning many Lok Sabha seats. Muslims traditionally prefer backing any secular winning option against the BJP. With the BJP itself being on a weak wicket in U.P., the Muslim vote bank is likely to be in quite a disarray in the coming Lok Sabha election. All the three parties - SP, BSP and Congress may play the ``drag-n-drop’’ game with them this time on.