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Muslims getting disenchanted with Mulayam Singh

Tuesday 15 August 2006

Lucknow: With assembly elections due early next year in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling Samajwadi Party faces an uphill task in retaining its base among a disenchanted Muslim community.

The emergence of political outfits floated by two prominent Islamic clerics has rattled Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party has been a favourite of many Muslims in the state thus far.

But the new outfits - United Democratic Front (UDF), a brainchild of chief cleric of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Imam Ahmad Bukhari, and People’s Democratic Front (PDF) led by Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawaad -have already declared war against Yadav.

The Congress, which once enjoyed a monopoly on Muslim votes, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which too enjoys sizeable support among Muslims, remain fiercely anti-Yadav. Muslims, who constitute India’s largest minority, form 18 to 20 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s 166 million people.

While the UDF held the first meeting of its newly formed executive in Meerut Wednesday to prepare its draft poll plan, PDF chief Jawaad announced the party’s decision to field candidates for 147 of the 403 assembly seats in the state.

"If Mulayam is a true well-wisher of Muslims, let him not field any Samajwadi Party nominee in these 147 constituencies," Jawaad told sources , while throwing the gauntlet at the chief minister.

Yadav’s attempt to retain his Muslim support was amply displayed in his recent actions.

Not only did he announce a major power subsidy for weavers, a majority of whom are Muslims, but he also hastily set up a three-member commission to look into generation of more employment opportunities for the minority community.

The media was replete with advertisements about how the state government had created 2,853 positions for Urdu teachers as part of an exercise to create job opportunities for Muslims.

The advertisement also promised, "500 more Urdu teachers to be appointed soon."

When all this failed to impress the common Muslim, the chief minister set out to have a one-on-one dialogue with the most prominent leaders of both the Sunni and the Shia sects.

He first called on Maulana Rabe Nadwi, who is rector of the country’s leading Islamic institution, Nadwa-tul-Ulema, as well as president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).

Shortly thereafter, he invited Maulana Kalbe Jawaad to his residence for a closed-door session.

Informed sources claimed that Yadav’s key thrust was to impress upon the two clerics, who command much respect among Muslims, that he was the true messiah of Muslims.

He also reportedly tried to dissuade the clerics from indulging in politics.

However, the manner in which Imam Ahmed Bukhari and Maulana Kalbe Jawaad are going ahead with their political agenda shows that Yadav’s entreaties have had little effect.

Many Muslims seem to have little sympathy today for Yadav.

M. Siddiqui, a motor garage owner who became Yadav’s ardent supporter after the latter ordered firing on a mob storming the Babri Masjid in 1990, has no love lost for him now.

"Other than lip service, Mulayam has done nothing for the community all these years that he has been in power. Let there be elections and he will know his worth among Muslims," Siddiqui asserted.

A.A. Abbasi, a government employee, said Mulayam had lost credibility among Muslims.

"The chief minister has failed to live up to the hopes and aspirations of the Muslims," he remarked.

Said Roomi Khwaja, a 30-year old businessman in Lucknow’s said, "Mulayam cornered the support of Muslims by creating a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) phobia among the community; time and again he has tried to impress upon Muslims that they must feel indebted to the Samajwadi Party for saving their lives from the (BJP’s ideological mentor) Sangh Parivar."

He added, "How can such a person claim to be the well-wisher of this community when his entire strategy was based on terrorising us?"


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