Muslims of Uttar Pradesh have had a bitter, sweet relationship with Samajwadi Party led by Mulayam Singh Yadav for more than last 25 years.
The was around late 1980’s that Mulayam Singh Yadav had realized the combination of his own Yadav caste with 18% Muslim population of Uttar Pradesh can take him to greater political heights. Muslims constitute more than 35% in some of the Lok Sabha constituencies and in more than 50% in many assembly constituencies of state of Uttar Pradesh.
In 1990 during the Babri Masjid agitation the UP police fired upon the kar sevaks which resulted in some casualties as a result subsequently Chief minister Mulayam was bestowed with the sobriquet of Mullah Mulayam by the right wing but he instantly turned into a hero among the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh who rewarded him by standing by him for years to come.
He was elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 and was Indian Defense Minister but as a defense minister there was nothing that he did that was inspiring for Muslim of Uttar Pradesh who looked upon him as their leader.
Mulayam Singh was again elected as CM of Uttar Pradesh in 2003 but in his tenure he barely took any concrete steps to empower the Muslim community in fact he indulged in political stunts by giving frivolous sops like allowing Muslim children to wear caps in class rooms or announcing holiday on not so prominent Muslim festivals like Shab-be-barat and such moves were unwelcomed by Muslims themselves.
He lost favor of Muslims around 2007 when many Muslims found out that in spite of voting for him to power the primary community who benefitted from his rule were his own Yadav community. Disillusioned Muslims voted for Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati and it’s the perfect thing to do in Democracy to vote out a government that does not deliver. Muslims threw their vote behind Mayawati and with unflinching support from her own Dalit community she got her back in corridors of power elected as CM in a landslide victory in 2007.
During the Lok Sabah elections of 2009 just as Muslims of Uttar Pradesh were softening their stand towards Mulayam Singh Yadav in a move that can be termed as only political hara-kiri Mulayam in sudden turn of caprice allied with Kalyan Singh perhaps to garner the Lodhi votes affiliated to Mr. Kalyan Singh’s caste but the move back fired badly for Mulayam Singh Yadav who faced the ire of Muslims who had not yet forgiven Kalyan Singh for his role in destruction of Babri Masjid as UP CM in 1992. Mulayam soon realized his folly but the arrow had been shot and the damage had been done. He paid the price in 2009 Lok Sabha elections when his Samajwadi Party performed worse than expected due to lack of Muslim support.
Mayawati needs to be credited for keeping law and order in control and not allowing communal riots in the state in her term that lasted till 2012. But in her tenure Mayawati’s own wealth and her Dalit community immensely reaped the benefits of her being in power socially and economically, but the Muslims who had thrown their weight behind her felt left out.
Come 2012 Uttar Pradesh elections and Mayawati facing anti incumbency and the Muslim voters disappointment at being left out under Mayawati’s rein, were lured by a carrot of 18% Reservation by Mulayam Singh Yadav, a promise which was impossible to be implemented unless there is an amendment in the constitution. Mulayam Singh along with his trusted Muslim faces like Azam Khan also got support of some symbolic so called Muslim religious leaders like Shahi Imam who gained at personal level from the alliance. These antics drew Muslims back towards Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The result was Mulayam Singh Yadav got the magic silver bullet combination of Yadav, Muslims and stormed back to power in 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and installed his son the young Akhilesh Yadav as the New chief minister of Uttar Pradesh State.
In the post election defeat speech the ex chief minister Mayawati blamed the Muslims for voting en bloc for supporting and electing Samajwadi Party but did not dwell upon the reason for their disillusionment or grievances with her or her own short comings that may have got Muslim voters alienated from her party.
Within months of coming to power Samajwadi party led by Mulayam Yadav’s son Akhilesh Yadav turned out to be a proverbial from fire pan into the fire for Uttar Pradesh Muslims. Akhilesh has been a disappointment as chief minister and the promises of 18% reservation to Muslims appear to have been in cold storage as they know very well that it’s constitutionally impossible to implement.
Again in a sudden turn of caprice that is reminiscence of the sordid affair with Kalyan Singh in 2009 Samajwadi Party once again started to flirt with VHP and there were reports of some kind of tactical understanding between Uttar Pradesh government and VHP at the time of 2013 Ayodhya rally. And adding insult to injury was the insensitive indifference and callous approach towards the Muslim victims of Muzaffarnagar riots. It has baffled many political observers and analyst the kind of political suicide committed by Mulayam Singh Yadav but doing everything wrong in his response to the Muzzafarnagar riots. Whether its lack of firm response to the riots, or faulty compensation to the riot victims to deaths of refugees in camps or to holding the Saifai festival at a time when the refugees were dying in cold.
There is no denying of the fact that Muzaffarnagar riots appear to be sinister plot to bring communal disharmony and chasm in the Uttar Pradesh state and particularly in western Uttar Pradesh which had a fairly successful Muslim, Jat vote alliance. But the role played by ruling Samajwadi Party led by CM Akhilesh Yadav remains questionable.
Mulayam Singh Yadav remains an old fashioned politician who has very little awareness about the facts on the ground or of the issues that affect or concern the Muslim community. Muslims were thankful to him for his stand on Babri Masjid in 1990 but that is now a part of history and he has been rewarded for it by them, the younger generation of Uttar Pradesh Muslims want concrete steps that will benefit and improve their lives and are no longer impressed with his lollypops like announcing holiday on Urs of Ajmer Sharif, a dargah that is situated in Rajasthan.
The fact remains that Muslims of Uttar Pradesh have been practicing democracy and voting new government after every term when they feel betrayed by the ruling government unlike the Yadav and Dalits of Uttar Pradesh who have continued voting en mass for their respective clan regardless of the performance of the government.
Sadly there has been no other alternative other than the two prominent parties for Muslims. Congress has failed to cultivate any young local Muslim grass root leadership and Muslim sensitiveness towards Rss led Bjp ideology is well known.
Hence it’s a tragedy that Muslims have not given justice or a fair deal by any of the government whether SP or BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Muslims have been voting alternate governments after every term thus whether its Mulayam Singh or Mayawati both have been merely reaping the benefits of the miss governance of the other government after every term. And it’s highly probable that in Lok Sabha elections of 2014 Uttar Pradesh Muslims are likely to vote for Mayawati and continue to be a victim of the indifference and political ping pong being played by the two dominant political parties in Uttar Pradesh.
(Sameer Khan is an Independent writer, Playwright and author. He tweets at @samkhan999)