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Mulayam out to woo Muslim religious heads

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Lucknow: As the Muslims await for the release of their innocent youths arrested on fake charges of terrorism and fulfillment of other promises made by the Samajwadi Party over a year back during UP assembly elections, the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has begun wooing community leaders of all hue in view of the coming parliamentary elections. Encouraged by the overwhelming support of Muslims his party got in the assembly elections but also a bit afraid about the failue to fulfill  major promises even after a year of the party rule in the state, the SP chief is trying to rope in new leaders while at the same time pacifying old supporters.

Among the new leaders whom the SP chief is trying to bond with are Jamiat Ulama-e Hind (JuH) chief Maulana Arshad Madni and leader of Barelvi sect and chief of Ittehad-e-Millat Council, Maulana Tauqueer Raza Khan and some other political leaders and outfits. Reportedly, Mulayam is also in contact with the president of the Muslim Personal Law Board and rector of Nadwatul Ulama, Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadwi. Although Maulana Rabey, following in the tradition of his predecessor late Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, will never sully  his feet in electoral politics, Mulayam may be thinking of drawing some benefit by demonstrating closeness with him. A senior JuH office bearer, while admitting that Mulayam was in contact with them, told MG “Mulayam has made some promises to us and if he fulfills the same, he may gain support of Muslims.” Maulana Tuqeer Raza Kahn is quoted to have said, “We were approached by the SP chief to discuss a new alignment. I had listed some demands related to the community and its well-being. Mulayam has agreed in principle that the demands will be met. Once it is done, we can talk about our political journey ahead,” he said.

It is no secret that Mulayam, ever since he handed over the reigns of power in UP to his son Akhilesh, has a dream to become Prime Minister and to fulfill this dream he has been trying to forge a third front of non-Congress and non-BJP parties. His son and the UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s recent meetings with the AIADMK chief Jayalalitha can be seen in this context.

The present political situation, when neither the Congress nor the BJP are very favourite with the electorate, has boosted the morale of the SP chief. If he succeeds in bringing some secular parties to forge a third front, he will need enough parliamentary seats to claim its leadership. But even if he fails in his efforts, he will try to get maximum seats in order to have some bargaining power at the time of the formation of the next Union government. In both the situations, Mulayam will try to repeat his performance of the last Assembly elections. And that will not be possible without the support of Muslims. Therefore, Mulayam may go to any extent to get the support of the community.

But while bargaining with the Samajwadi Party, Muslim leadership should be doubly cautious. Political parties in the past have made promises to get the community votes but forgotten them soon after the elections. More than one year has passed now but the SP government has failed to keep its promises to the community. Another year or so remains before the Parliament elections. Mulayam has still enough time to fulfill his promises and redress the grievances of the community. Unless he does so, the Muslim leaders should not commit any support to the SP or any other party on the basis of mere promises. Besides, transparency should be maintained in reaching any pact because any backdoor dealing will only arouse suspicion in the absence of a united Muslim leadership.

It should also be borne in mind that the Lok Sabha elections are different from those of the states. Here Congress and BJP are the two main contenders for power. Muslims being the largest minority have the responsibility to bring the secular forces to the front while at the same time ensure the defeat of communal and divisive outfits. In the past, U.P. Muslims voted for secular candidates, irrespective of their party affiliations, who were in a position to defeat BJP nominees in a particular constituency. While bargaining with the SP chief, Muslim leadership should keep this factor in mind. The deteriorating law and order in the state has eroded the SP position from what it was a year back on the eve of the elections to the state assembly. If the party and its government fail to change their goonda image in the coming months, which appears unlikely given the irresponsible statements of some ministers recently, the party may not be able to throw a big challenge to its rivals, especially the BJP. Congress and BSP are other claimants of secular votes in the state, especially the former which is trying to rope in Muslims. But the community considers the Congress party responsible for its pathetic condition after Independence. Although the Congress has some sympathisers in the community, their numbers are not so high. It can succeed only if the SP fails to fulfill its commitment to Muslims.

Religious leaders talking to Mulayam on behalf of the community is a positive step and should be welcomed. However, if these leaders instead of talking separately join together and also bring leaders of Shia and other sects on a single platform it would serve the community better. If the aim of all the leaders is the same—to serve the Muslim community—petty differences should not come in the way.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2013 on page no. 1

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