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Muslim ministers play minority card on Mulayam

Thursday 27 April 2006

NEW DELHI: With UP minister Azam Khan not heeding to pleas for restraint and leading protests against governor T V Rajeshwar, it is becoming clear that SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is having a tough time to balance contending pulls of electoral compulsions and decorum expected of his ministers.

Khan’s aggression - he sat on protest while his followers burnt the governor’s effigies as he toured the minister’s constituency Rampur for a visit to Raza library on Wednesday - comes close on the heels of Haj minister Yaqoob Qureshi’s revolt against the government. Qureshi accused Mulayam of paying lipservice to Muslims.

The two ministers-gone-ballistic only highlight Mulayam’s dilemma as he stares at approaching elections. Reining in his ministers does not square up with his need to garner all the minority support he must get in order to take on the challenge of anti-incumbency.

Qureshi has not only revolted but is contemplating an independent course with a minority welfare plank. Ironically only a month ago, he had emerged as the SP posterboy by offering a Rs 50 crore booty for the head of the Danish cartoonist responsible for the Mohammed caricatures.

He is to decide his future course of action in a rally with ulema on May 14. In close succession, Khan has opened a front with Rajeshwar for not giving assent to the proposal of Jauhar Urdu university, triggering fresh acrinomy between the chief minister and Raj Bhavan. The latter had asked Mulayam to check his minister.

The question is can Mulayam restrain his Muslim vote-getters. Known to be intemperate, Khan’s diatribe could be seen as personal since he planned to use Jauhar university to push his appeal among his constituency.

But observers are quick to see a pattern. It is felt that given the tough battle that SP is up against in next year’s assembly polls, the minority ministers realise their "indispensability" for Mulayam and are extracting autonomy.

Their new found confidence is rooted in the belief that CM would be loathe to act against them for fear of sending a "wrong message" to the minority constituency.

It may see more leaders breaking free to Mulayam’s consternation. The SP chieftain has not spoken a word even after Qureshi raised the banner of revolt.

See online : The Times of India

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