Mulayam Checkmates Opponents Bukhari pledges support to SP
In what is being seen as a hotting up of the Uttar Pradesh political scene, media and politics-savvy chief head priest of Jama Masjid, Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari or ‘Shahi Imam’ as he likes to be called, and some other Sunni clerics, including few from Deoband, have pledged support to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. Bukhari is the thirteenth generation of Bukharis to lead Friday prayers at India’s biggest mosque built by Emperor Shahjahan. Bukhari not only pledged his total support to SP at a crowded joint press conference held in the state capital recently but also made an appeal to Muslims to vote for the party. Prominent among those offering support to SP were Maulana Noorul Huda of Deoband and Zaheeruddin of the All India Muslim Majlis Hind.
While this move has proved to be a shot in the arm for SP, all the opponents of Mulayam are in a flutter as Muslim votes will be the deciding factor in the forthcoming seven-phased assembly polls beginning February 8. Each party is going all out to woo the Muslims and, no doubt, Bukhari’s support to SP may prove to be a deciding factor.
Bukhari said that for the betterment and development of the Muslims, the community must show solidarity and vote SP to power. Charging both the Congress and the BSP with not doing anything for the minorities in their long innings of power, Bukhari alleged that while the Congress carried the stains of many innocent Muslims on its soul, the BSP was the party of a single caste and had not done anything for the welfare and uplift of the Muslims.
Making a reference to SP alliance in 2009 with the Babri Masjid demolition tainted former BJP Chief Minster Kalyan Singh, Bukhari urged the community to let bygones be bygones as Mulayam had already realised his mistake and apologised to Muslims for his mistake of aligning with Singh. He urged the Muslims to forgive Mulayam and offer their total support and vote the party back to power.
Traditionally a Congress supporter, Bukhari had in the 2004 parliamentary elections issued an appeal in support of the BJP. That is why Mulayam’s opponents have got a chance to attack the Shahi Imam.
However, the Muslim face of SP, Azam Khan, back in SP after distancing himself from the party and having gone into self-exile protesting against the growing role of the likes of Amar Singh in the party expressed his reservations about Bukhari support. Expressing his great dissatisfaction at this development Khan said that as a politician who has practised loyalty to one party he was against people with shifting loyalty joining the party. He also strongly criticised Bukhari’s statement on reservation for Muslims and said that Bukhari was a religious head and should confine himself to that area and that he should not meddle with politics.
“Re-joining BJP and support to Mulayam were the biggest mistakes of my life”—Kalyan Singh
Jan Kranti Party (JKP) chief and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh turned 80 this January. For a seasoned politician, with a long innings this should be a reason enough to celebrate, but Singh appears far from being in a celebratory mood. Pensive, feeble, irritable, he is regretful of the mistakes he made in his past political innings. The man who was once the apple of BJP eye, the man who was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh when the Babri Masjid was razed to the ground in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, today appears in a retrospective mood. The fire is gone, the determination is missing. Kalyan Singh is today not even a fraction of his former self. And it is not the physical change that one is speaking about but the mental metal, and pschycological make-up that give him that aura of a defeated man. Politics seems to have taken its toll on Kalyan Singh.
“Re-joining the BJP and associating with Mulayam Singh Yadav on his persistence presurre were the two biggest political mistakes I made in my career,” he said at a press conference on January 27. It is ironic that the same day, same time the BJP was releasing the party manifesto at its party office, a km away, and most of the media was engaged there. Kalyan chose this time to lambaste his one-time party BJP policies and did not mince words in declaring that the BJP was “anti-Dalit, anti-OBCs and anti-Dalit\OBC women empowerment”.
“The BJP like the Congress has no respect for Dalit and OBC. You can see this by the importance that is given to these leaders in the party,” he said, displaying a copy of the BJP manifesto to the press which had just passport-size photos of Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar—both OBC leaders in the BJP
Kalyan Singh also accused the saffron party of sabotaging the entrance of Dalit\OBC women into politics by not demanding a separate quota for them in the 33 per cent quota demand for woman politicians.
“This is a game plan to keep Dalit\OBC women out of the political arena and thus ensure that only women from higher castes and affluent families enter politics,” said Singh, taking a dig at BJP being a party of higher castes.
Repenting his joining hands with Socialist leader Mulayam Singh, Kalyan Singh said that his support to Mulayam, who is considered the messiah of Muslims, was because of the insistence of Mulayam. “While I gave my son Rajbir to it (Samajwadi Party) I refused to join the party myself,” he explained.
A lot of water has flown down the Gomti since 1992, when Kalyan Singh was regarded by the Hindutva forces as a hero of communal politics and the man who made the demolition of Babri Masjid possible. Today, Singh stands alone, alienated, sidelined and has no option but to embrace totally the politics of caste. This is the only way to survive. From a communal force to reckon with Kalyan is today aspiring to use his caste (Lodh) to retain his place in politics. Of course, there are already many in this race including BJP leaders Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar, not to mention the NHRM-tainted former BSP minister and Mayawati’s aide Babu Singh Kushwaha, who is supporting the BJP.
In fact, the three-page press release announcing the names of the 248 candidates who will be contesting on JKP tickets has names listed along with their castes. To make the obvious clearer the total breakup of the tickets against each caste is also listed. Out of the 248 candidates, nearly 50 per cent—128 belong—to Singh’s own caste Lodhi, 49 are from SCs\STs, 69 for general, two are Muslims. There are 13 women in this list.
Surprisingly, the man who is projecting caste politics so blatantly is totally averse to reservation on the basis of religion. He accuses all the major political players in Uttar Pradesh of doing vote politics through appeasement of Muslims, which comprises nearly 18.5 per cent of the total electorate.
He said that it was the Congress that spear-headed this reservation for Muslims move by announcing a 9 per cent quota. In a one upmanship, Mayawati scaled it to 15 per cent and Mulayam to 18 per cent. “All this from the 27 per cent quota for OBCs is totally unjustified. If 18 per cent are taken from 27 it will leave a mere 9 per cent for OBCs and this is not acceptable. My party is totally against this appeasement,” said Singh.
But he has no qualms about campaigning against OBC candidates from other parties, including his adopted daughter Uma Bharti.
He said that he would definitely campaign for the JKP candidate fielded in Charkari assembly seat from where Uma Bharti was also contesting. On the question of Uma projecting herself as the chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, Singh said that while that was a very tall claim, according to his political arithmetic Uma would only get the third or fourth place and that there was no question of her winning the seat. (KM)
Mulayam’s masterstoke has been that of a seasoned politicain. Bukhari’s support to SP is likely to make a dent in the Congress vote bank and the senior party leaders are reworking out their poll strategies.
Reacting to Bukhari crossing over to SP, Congress stalwarts Digvijay Singh and Rita Joshi Bahuguna have called Bukhari a “communal” and “opportunist”, asserting that he holds no clout and that his appeal will have no effect on the Muslims.
Mulayam’s adversaries are crying foul and alleged that Mulayam had bought over the cleric by giving ticket to Bukhari’s son-in-law from Behat in Saharanpur district.
“One must check the deal that has been struck between the two,” said BJP leader Vinay Katiyar. But SP rebutts all these allegations asserting that there is nothing wrong in giving ticket to a deserving candidate.
In fact, it is being openly said in the SP camp that now that the party has got a strong Muslim face, it will be able to give a befitting reply to all those who attack SP’s secular and pro-Muslim stance.
Of course, there are Muslim bodies that feel that Bukhari acted in haste and his appeal will confuse the Muslim voter further and thus divide his vote. While not wishing to be quoted, several senior clerics representing both the Shia and the Sunni told Uday India that Bukhari’s move was not only hasty, against the role of a cleric but was also opportunistic and aimed at personal gains rather than the good of the community.
They feel that the Muslims must be cautious of any allurement. The minority voters must exercise their rights to vote carefully and fearlessly ensuring that they cast their vote for the man and party that will help their community move ahead, they emphasised.
Ironically, on the same day, when Bukhari was pledging his support to SP, film director Muzaffar Ali was switching his loyalty from SP to the Congress. In Lucknow, amidst a lot of excitement, the Congress welcomed Ali into the party fold. Muzaffar Ali had joined the SP in the mid-nineties and had even contested election on SP ticket. But he soon fell off as he failed to adjust himself to the tenor of the party which failed to let him dream.
In his own words, Ali joined the Congress, with the confidence that here he would be allowed to dream and help promote the culture, spirit of Awadh and thus project the true Uttar Pardesh. This freedom he did not get in the regional party SP and hence felt suffocated and lost. In the Congress, Ali hopes that his dreams would get wings and his visions of development get a concrete shape.
Though a Shia by birth, Ali has no hold over the sect. While his joining the Congress may add a Bollywood stamp to the Congress, Ali, it is doubtful, will be able to influence his community to vote for the Congress.
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow