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Mayawati's 'Manuwadi' mode stuns Muslims, Dalits, liberals 

The refusal by the Uttar Pradesh government to issue a fresh notification to revive the trial proceedings against the Deputy Prime Minister, LK Advani and other Bhartiya Janata Party and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders in the Babari Masjid demolition case has made it clear that chief minister Mayawati wants to cling to power at any cost. She apparently cares little if this action of her government results in the loss of Muslim support to her party.

The Supreme Court on July 29 this year had given eight weeks time to the UP government to take a decision on the issuance of fresh notification to revive the criminal proceedings against Advani and 46 others, including the two Union ministers Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the demolition case. But since then at no time was there any indication that the Mayawati government was serious in reviving the case. The announcement in early September that Advani is participating in the Dhikkar (condemnation) rally, organised by the BSP in Lucknow on September 28 had given a clear enough indication that the Mayawati government was least interested in the trial. It was all the more surprising that Advani had agreed to participate in the rally without consulting even the state BJP leaders. 

Ruling out the issuance of a fresh notification, the state government in its reply on September 17 blamed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the delay in the trial. The state government maintained that there existed a CBI court in Rae Bareli for the trial of this case. It contended that, if it wished, the investigating agency could approach the apex court to seek the shifting of the case to any other CBI special court and the state government would not be a party to it. Ms Mayawati said that the CBI was also free to file objections in the Supreme Court against the decision of her government on the notification issue.

The chief minister blamed the Congress and the Samajwadi Party for the present state of affairs. However, while her criticism was hard on her adversaries, she underplayed the role of the BJP, her alliance partner. In fact, the chief minister, who often described the BJP as her arch rival, had earlier been condemning the BJP government for its refusal to issue a fresh notification maintaining that this implied it was deliberately trying to shield the Sangh leaders. But now she has an explanation to give for change in her views. Now she says that her statement made while she was in opposition was made on the basis of wrong media reports in the case.

Except putting the blame on the CBI, the state government did not say what forbids it from issuing a fresh notification. Ms. Mayawati seems to have distorted the legal matter to create confusion. Her government says that the investigating agency can try the case in the CBI court in Rae Bareli. But the fact is that the Rae Bareli court is at present lying defunct. Moreover, it was the state government that had referred the case to the CBI and the court was set up only after it issued a notification. Does the government has a duty to follow it up? Was it not the duty of the government to take remedial measures and issue a fresh notification so that proper trial was conducted?

The apex court's directive on July 29 was clear. It asked the state government whether it was interested in issuing fresh notification to begin the trial. While quashing the CBI chargesheet against Sangh leaders in the demolition case, the Allahabad High Court in February last year had stated that it had done so on the ground that the notification issued by the state government was improper and defective. It significantly added that the government could rectify the mistake by issuing a fresh notification after getting clearance from the court. This High Court order was challenged in a writ petition filed in the apex court. The Supreme Court's poser was specific: whether the state government would rectify the mistake it committed or not?

On his part, Advani had agreed to participate in the Dhikkar rally only to please Mayawati so that the trial against him was not revived. In fact, while agreeing to support the BSP leader to form the government in U.P. earlier this year, Advani and the BJP central party leadership had foreseen that the UP government would not revive the case. In fact, despite stiff opposition from state BJP leaders, the party high command agreed to a tie-up with the BSP. Advani and the BJP knew it well that in case the Samajwadi Party, which is the largest single party in the legislature, came to power the issuance of the notification would be one of its first acts. On the other hand, the formation of government was necessary for Mayawati to cement her vote base. The BJP and BSP had also wanted to keep the Samajwadi Party away from power.

In the changed circumstances, the role of the Muslim legislators belonging to the BSP is important. The BSP has 14 MLAs and they may find it difficult to support Ms. Mayawati's decision in the Ayodhya case. Many of them had won the last assembly elections with the active support from the minority community. In fact the BSP, which derives its strength from the support of Dalits and the minority community, had assured the secular elements just before the Assembly elections in the state earlier this year that after the polls, it would not have any truck with the communalists. On the basis of this, the Milli Council, an organisation of Muslims, had advised the minority community to vote for the BSP candidates in 67 constituencies where it found they had a better chance to defeat the BJP nominees than the nominees of other parties. Out of these, 24 had come out victorious. There are two Muslim MLAs in the Rashtriya Lok Dal, a coalition partner in the Mayawati government. But they are unlikely to act against the chief minister. After all, the RLD is a partner in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre, where Advani is the second in command.

The minority community may not like Ms Mayawati's invitation to Mr Advani to address the rally in Lucknow particularly after the latter had praised the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who had recently made malicious and virulent remarks against the Muslims during his recent Gujarat Gaurav Yatra. Moreover, the minority community is angry with the UP chief minister for not condemning the Gujarat violence.

While sparing Advani in the Ayodhya demolition case, Mayawati is apparently taking a cue from the stand taken earlier by several political parties when allying with the BJP at the Centre and in many states despite the fact that they had a support base among the Muslims in their respective regions. This list included the Telugu Desam Party, the Janata Dal, the DMK, AIADMK, the Biju Janata Dal, the Akali Dal etc. The BSP obviously thinks that as in the case of these parties, it will also continue to get the support from the minority community because the community is always divided on political issues.

Mayawati's decision to spare Advani is an indication that the BJP and BSP are coming closer at the national level also. Now the chief minister has started saying that the two parties will fight Lok Sabha elections in 2004 jointly. BSP leaders, however, assert that the tie-up between the two parties is limited to Uttar Pradesh only. But there is little conviction in such statements because the BSP is known to make opportunistic alliances.

Ms. Mayawati's refusal to revive the proceedings meant that a ground has now been created to drop the cases against these leaders altogether unless the court intervenes in the matter.

PM Damodaran in Lucknow

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