We have in UP today the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party representing the two extremes in a bid to capture power in this huge state that returns 80 members to Parliament, says Seema Mustafa.
No one uses the Muslims more callously than Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and now his son Akhilesh Yadav in the belief that their absurd utterances will consolidate the minority vote without which the party will not be able to survive the travails of politics in India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh.
This time around they have sought to justify the suspension of a young bureaucrat Durga Shakti Nagpal by insisting that this was done because she had brought down part of the boundary wall of a mosque, and the decision was creating communal tension in the area. And hence somehow the Muslims were made responsible for the authoritarian decision and brought into the firing line by a state government that lives off such religious polarisation.
Reporters who visited the village wrote about how the minorities did not want to be part of this controversy, and that there was no communal tension at all in the Muslim majority village about the mosque. And as subsequent reports have established the reason for Durga’s suspension was her strong action against the sand mafia that has been carrying out large-scale illegal mining in the area, with the clear connivance of the political bosses.
In fact this young IAS officer had created waves in the riverside villages of Noida and Greater Noida by cracking down on the sand mafia, seizing their trucks and ensuring that the illegal activity was stopped. With her suspension now the sand mining has resumed after a brief hiatus, with the sand feeding into the frenetic construction activity in New Delhi.
Judging from the action against her by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh it is clear that she was coming in the way of this highly lucrative business, and the state leadership was looking for the first opportunity to act against her.
It is significant that Akhilesh Yadav who claims to be so concerned about the boundary wall of a small mosque, has not seen it fit to take any action against those responsible for the Shia Sunni clashes that have destroyed the peace in Lucknow after a long time. The bureaucrats and police officers responsible for maintaining law and order in the capital of Uttar Pradesh are usually handpicked by the political party in power, and clearly the slow reaction and the failure to sense the building up of tension and take preventive measures is not reason enough for action against erring officials.
The Samajwadi Party is aided in this ‘defence’ of the minorities, by one Azam Khan who has an ‘off and on’ relationship with the Yadav family, but manages to do sufficient damage to secularism by his utterances and absurd positions.
Protests against the suspension of Durga are escalating into a nation wide stir and it remains to be seen whether the state government will revoke its order. At the time of writing the chief minister had dug in his heels, maintaining that he will not succumb to this pressure by the bureaucracy. This political versus bureaucrat face off can have interesting repercussions, particularly as political parties interference in honest bureaucratic functioning has increased dramatically all over the country, with honest officers bearing the brunt of the politicians wrath.
In the meantime Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son who had been expected better from, will do well to revise their brand of politics. The Muslims have been supportive of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh for want of a better option, but this absurd and rather juvenile brand of minority politics does far more harm than good.
More so, as Uttar Pradesh will be the target of communal forces in the coming general elections with former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah already in place to stir up the Hindutva agenda and consolidate the votes. The Yadav duo and Azam Khan make for a potent brew, as clearly their interest is not in strengthening Indian secularism, but in terrifying and consolidating the minority vote in their favour.
Ironically, instead of the old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh versus Jamaat-e-Islami counter that worked well for both these fundamentalist organisations during communal riots, we have in UP today the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party representing the two extremes in a bid to capture power in this huge state that returns 80 members to Parliament.
It is time that Akhilesh Yadav came out from under his father’s shadow and showed the state and the country that he has the potential to strike a new path. Secularism through which alone India can remain a vibrant democracy, cannot work through polarisation. It needs to be strengthened through bold, inclusive, courageous and constitutional decisions that unfortunately our political class seems incapable of.
All that matters is victory at the polls, and the rest is ‘collateral damage.’