By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Kalyan Singh, once the Hindutva mascot of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was the Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister when the Babari Masjid was demolished in 1992. He has now joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadavâ€™s Samajwadi Party (SP), the very party that had earlier strongly criticized Kalyan for demolition of the mosque. Taking a U-turn on his earlier stand against Kalyan, Yadav said the former was not responsible for the mosqueâ€™s demolition. â€œHe (Kalyan) did not do that. The mosque was demolished by Shiv Sena and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),â€ Yadav said within a few days of Kalyan quitting BJP to move closer to SP. Acknowledging that mosqueâ€™s demolition was Kalyanâ€™s â€œmoralâ€ responsibility as he was the then UP chief minister, Yadav said: â€œKalyan now represents the downtrodden and working-class and he has always been a supporter of their issues. We cannot call him extremist now.â€ On their being bitter political rivals earlier, Yadav said: â€œWe were never enemies but opposed each other, as we have always been in opposite partiesâ€ (January 25).
On his part, suggesting a negotiated settlement on the disputed Ayodhya-issue, Kalyan said: â€œAll concerned parties, including prominent Muslim clerics, saints and sadhus, intellectuals, historians and archaeologists, should sit together and find out an amicable solution to the dispute keeping in mind that the sentiments of no group or community are hurt.â€
Ayodhya-issue is not responsible for Kalyanâ€™s decision to resign from BJP. Announcing his decision to resign from all party posts in BJP, Kalyan said: â€œI am feeling suffocated in the party and it is impossible and humiliating to continueâ€ (January 20). Clarifying that he had never asked for party ticket for his son or his supporters, Kalyan said that the BJP had ignored him while preparing candidatesâ€™ list from UP for Lok Sabha elections. â€œNo one consulted me while preparing a poll candidatesâ€™ list for 80 constituencies. I just wanted Bulandshahr seat but they offered me ticket from Etah, which I have returned to party president Rajnath Singh,â€ he said.
Kalyan is angry with the BJP for nominating Ashok Pradhan from Bulandshahr. He holds Pradhan as responsible for sabotaging his son Rajveer Singhâ€™s chances in assembly elections two years ago from Diboi seat in Aligarh. The preceding day, Yadav had said that Kalyanâ€™s son was welcome to fight on a ticket from SP. When asked to comment on this, Kalyan said: â€œI would like to thank him for that. We will see.â€ Rajveer was inducted into SP and appointed its national general secretary, the following day.
Yadav is hopeful that alliance with Kalyan will swing the Dalit-vote in their favor and create a dent in the support enjoyed by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which at present heads the UP government under Chief Minister Mayawati.
The U-turn in Yadavâ€™s attitude towards Kalyan has angered quite a few Muslim leaders within SP. Azam Khan, known as an important Muslim leader of SP, has strongly opposed Yadavâ€™s decision to join hands with Kalyan. â€œThis is just not acceptable to me. Kalyan Singh is a hardcore RSS man who was directly responsible for the demolition of the Babari Masjid. How can I brush shoulders with a man like him? What has led Mulayam Singhji to go for such an alignment?â€
Saleem Sherwani, who has been elected to Lok Sabha five times, voiced his opposition to the â€œKalyan dealâ€ by expressing his decision to contest the Budaun seat as an independent candidate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Sherwani is disillusioned with Yadav at his decision to hand over Budaun seat to his nephew Dharmendra Yadav. Though his nephew won the last election from Mainpuri, he earned a bad name there for ignoring the constituency and only allegedly furthering his personal interests. SP chief apparently decided to hand Budaun to his nephew as the constituency has 316,000 Yadav votes and around 290,000 Muslim votes. Sherwaniâ€™s confidence on winning the seat as an independent rests on his being favored by both the sections.
Muslim leaders within BSP have criticized Yadavâ€™s tie-up with Kalyan to win the Muslim-vote. â€œWe have always been calling bluff the Mulayam Singh Yadavâ€™s claims of secularism. By joining hands with Kalyan Singh, he has shown his true colors,â€ BSP national general secretary and senior member of UP cabinet Nasimuddin Siddiqui said while addressing a party meeting in Allahabad (January 24). â€œMuslims must not forget that Kalyan Singh was the very person during whose chief ministership Babari mosque was demolished. Besides, although he has resigned from the BJP he has never ever expressed regret over the incident of December 6, 1992,â€ Siddiqui said.
Congress has no problems with the SP forging an alliance with Kalyan. â€œThough itâ€™s a historical fact that the Babari Masjid was demolished in his (Kalyan Singh) time, now if the Samajwadi Party gives ticket to him or his son (Rajvir Singh), it is between them. We donâ€™t have any problem with the alliance,â€ senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said.
With the SP-Kalyan deal, according to BJP, the Congress can no longer call itself â€œsecularâ€ and cannot absolve itself from joining hands with those who were involved in the Ayodhya movement. One of the accused in the Babari Masjid demolition-case, Brij Bhushan Sharan, a former BJP member was already given a Lok Sabha ticket by the SP.
Irrespective of whatever political calculations may be responsible for the SP-Kalyan deal, Muslim leaders of UP have strongly criticized it. Describing it as an ill advised move, Zafaryaab Jilani, legal advisor to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and also convener of the Babari Masjid Action Committee, said: â€œLet us see what explanation the SP chief will offer to the Muslims during Lok Sabha elections.â€ The SP will pay heavily by losing Muslim votes in Lok Sabha polls is the opinion voiced by most Muslim leaders in UP.