In a damage control move, while party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Tuesday roped in a large number of Maulanas to give himself a clean chit, his second-in-command Amar Singh flew down to the well-known Islamic seminary, DarulUloom Deoband in Saharanpur district to woo the clerics there.
Interestingly, not a single Maulana brought to the Samajwadi party state headquarters in Lucknow was a known face among Islamic scholars. The SP cadres were busy claiming that the Maulanas had come from different parts of the state and represented almost every possible institution of the Barelvi Islamic school of thought.
While Mulayam preferred to maintain a studied silence and declined to speak to the media, a few Maulanas were apparently well tutored to speak out.
"Mulayam Singh Yadav had convened this meeting to give his clarifications over the confusion that was created on account of his reported statement, giving a clean chit to Kalyan Singh in the Babri Masjid demolition case. After meeting him we are convinced that the confusion arose essentially on account of misreporting by the media," said Maulana Idris Baznavi.
"Far from giving Kalyan a clean chit, Mulayam Singh Yadav clearly held him morally responsible for the demolition of the Babri mosque," he added, while accusing the media of "being in the habit of twisting and turning facts."
Maulana Yasin Akhtar Misbahi said, "Since Mulayam has made it loud and clear to us that Kalyan Singh would never be made a member of his party, we have no objection to his association with Kalyan."
Replying to questions Misbahi sought to point out, "Though we always rated Kalyan Singh as communal and as key culprit behind demolition of the Babri Mosque, I have reason to believe that his departure from a highly communal political party would weaken that party."
Maulana Mohammad Ismail Qadri, who came to Lucknow from a village on the outskirts of the state capital declared, "Now that he has clarified his position, we are with Mulayam Singh Yadav ."
The meeting that went on for hours was followed by a business lunch in the conference room of the Samajwadi Party state headquarters hin Lucknow. Most of the Maulanas chose not to speak to the media and hastily slipped away from the scene . Even those who agreed to interact with reporters were nudged by senior SP leaders not to give long interviews. They were hurriedly ushered into Mulayam's chamber on the pretext of being called for another meeting.
Significantly, most of the clerics cleverly avoided pointed queries about Kalyan Singh's communal past. When a scribe drew their attention to Kalyan's inflammatory utterances that were played by a leading national TV channel, Maulana Ghulam Abdul Qadir Ali shot back in the latter's defence, "First of all we would like to know the date and authenticity of that recording."