BJP, SP honour riot accused in election meetings

Thursday was a day of mega rallies in Uttar Pradesh and it has given out early signs of the shape of electioneering to come in the heartland.

The riot accused of Muzaffarnagar were feted at the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s Agra rally, while a controversial Muslim cleric, an accused in another communal riot, was felicitated by Samajwadi Party at its public meeting at Bareilly.

While speaking about lack of an airport and drinking water in Agra, Modi also slammed Congress’ “divisive” laws in the country and referred to the separate status for Kashmir, a clear reference to the two prime Hindutva issues that were kept in the backburner by the Vajpayee government from 1998 to 2004 to retain the NDA allies.

A giant leap from 10 to about 40 Lok Sabha seats is what the BJP badly seeks in UP and such a dramatic turnaround can only be effected by an enthused Sangh Parivar cadre. The committed Sangh Parivar voter’s appeal for issues like uniform civil code and Article 370, which gives Kashmir a special status, has not diminished and a mere reference to these two is expected to ignite the Parivar passions.

The saffron party is obviously reviving issues that are central to its cadre, which once took the party to 52 seats in UP.

The BJP legislators accused of inciting the mobs in Muzaffarnagar were offered the traditional “pagdi” or headgear – a mark of respect and honour – by UP BJP leader Kalraj Mishra about two hours before Modi arrived.

And when he arrived, the Gujarat Chief Minister spoke about the politics of vote bank and the Congress’ logic of appeasing 25 per cent of the voters against the 75 per cent, and he also attacked the SP and BSP for their caste politics, again issues that are central to the Brahmin-Bania-Thakur core constituency of the Parivar.

At Bareilly, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav obliquely referred to restraining Modi, while Mulayam Singh Yadav shared his dream of a Third Front assuming power in 2014.

But what stood out was the presence of Tauqeer Raza Khan, who was made an accused by the Mayawati government in a riot-related case in 2010. Clearly, Mulayam Singh was once again playing the role of the protector of Muslims indicating the possibility of a sharp polarisation of votes that had earlier helped the BJP and to a lesser extent the SP.

rajesh.ramachandran@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 21, 2013)
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