Muzaffarnagar: Narendra Modi hasn't visited but BJP will gain
The emerging social equations are such that BJP is back in the reckoning in UP, the state that sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, one-seventh of its total strength.
The aftermath of Muzaffarnagar riots, where 48 persons were killed and as per official UP government estimates around 42000 persons of both communities have been displaced have brought that unfortunate reality to the fore.
A flying visit by the three seniormost Congress leaders has done little to inspire confidence among Muzaffarnagar's people. Beyond the sound bites and photo-ops with some chosen few at the two relief camps in Bassi Kalan and Tawli, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had little to offer to the victims of the communal riots.
The single issue that has captured minds in Uttar Pradesh now is whether the Muslim community will now trust the Congress vis-à-vis the Samajwadi Party when it comes to the crunch -- at the polling booth. Will the BSP succeed in forging a winning combination of Jatavas and Muslims?
The Jats, the other affected community, as the emerging situation on the ground suggests now, will move to the BJP, leaving virtually no space for Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal.
When Parliamentary elections are only six months away, politics seems to have an overpowering effect on moves and counter moves by all parties. So, while it may have been a sincere call of duty, the way the top three arrived together in the riot-torn district was indicative of how desperately the Congress wants to be seen as a friend in need to the Muslims, particularly when UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was booed by members of the community during his visit to the region only a day ago.
They would have done well to consider the flip side.
The images of Manmohan Singh, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi talking only to members of the Muslim community is hurting the other community, the Jats in particular -- there are 42,000 people in relief camps, belonging to either community.
The other thing the Congress think tank would have done well to consider is that the party does not have an organizational network of leadership on the ground to follow up the assurances made during a flying trip. Law and order, and land (the displaced are demanding alternative plots and houses) being a state subject, there is not much that the Congress-led UPA at the centre can offer.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s words were general in nature and spoken in a manner as if he was playing as per a script. Even if that’s symbolism, it has certainly not gone down well with the members of the other community.
The Jats are now aggrieved again -- this time because their woes were not taken note of by either the state government or the visiting Congress dignitaries. The truth is that a large number of Jats have been affected in the riots. Though the government has not released the names of the those killed in the riots along with a community-wise break-up like union Finance Minister P Chidambaram did -- standing in for an unwell Sushilkumar Shinde, with poor results -- for the Kishtwar violence in Parliament, some Jats are claiming that they suffered more because those returning from the Mahapanchayat on September 7 were taken by complete surprise when the attack began.
These claims may be unsubstantiated, but will have their impact on the polity nevertheless. The problem is the riots, originated with a minor incident in Kawal village with unfortunate death of Shahnawaz, Gaurav and Sachin spread to the social psyche of rural areas of the region where Jats and Muslims lived without any history of social tension.
The resentment among members of the community is so high that Sompal Shastri, a former Union minister and a respected Jat leader surrendered his ticket to Mulayam Singh Yadav to contest as a Samajwadi Party candidate. Shastri had won on BJP ticket against Ajit Singh in 1998 but had subsequently switched sides. There is a strong possibility that he may return to the BJP.
The emerging social equations are such that BJP is back in the reckoning in UP, the state that sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, one-seventh of its total strength. Narendra Modi’s rivals should watch out for the BJP's rising graph in India’s most populous state. While the BJP is surely buoyant about its prospects, a number of Muslim leaders and intellectuals from the state, albeit with some apprehension, admit that this time the BJP's optimism may not be misplaced. Narendra Modi may not have visited UP yet but his ghost is fast catching fancy.
BJP president Rajnath Singh held a core committee meeting of the party’s UP unit to devise its strategy for the Lok Sabha elections. The Muzaffarnagar riots and the aftermath was the focus of attention.
The party’s general secretary in-charge of UP, Amit Shah, and the party’s most popular face in the state Varun Gandhi were part of the meeting. Meanwhile, all parties noted the disappointment of Muslim leaders who met Prime Minister later in the evening on Monday, after he returned from Muzaffarnagar.
After the meeting, Maulana Mahmood Madani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, the largest body of Sunni Muslim clerics, was quoted by Times of India as saying, "Our meeting with the PM was very disappointing. We had expected he would at least give us some hope, some strong assurance that such communal violence won't be allowed to happen. But he did not even say that the Muzaffarnagar riots were bad or unfortunate, especially since he had just returned after seeing the extent of damage and brutality."
The number of persons who migrated to relief camps is unusually high. In fact, Jats were asked by the administration to immediately move out from such villages where Muslims were in a majority.
Likewise, Muslims were asked to move out from villages where they were in a minority. There are more Muslims in the camps also because they, like the administration, feared more retaliatory attacks from the Jats.
The only silver lining is, as some say, that this is still not a Hindu-Muslim conflict. It remains a Jat-Muslim conflict. Even among the Muslims, it's the Qureshis who are believed to be more aggressive.
Either way, nothing can be more torturous for the victims, refugees in their own homeland. The state and union government have the most difficult challenge at hand, restoring communal amity. Success or failure will determine who votes for whom. In the meantime, Modi's team would be planning how to cash in some more.
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