Is the crucial Muslim vote bank of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) drifting away? Even while party leaders say there is nothing that could "alienate the minorities", community leaders have begun to openly speak of their "early disenchantment" with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
Minority leaders were angered by the SP chief's recent statement in parliament that the differences between his party and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could disappear in near future if it gave up certain issues that the SP had antipathy to.
"What was the reason for Mulayam Singh to make such a unprovoked and unthought of statement," questioned Syed Tabrez, a cleric, who said he had voted for the SP in last year's assembly polls but was now vary of it.
"Mulayam Singh in the past too has romanced anti-Muslim leaders like Kalyan Singh for his narrow political gains so what is the guarantee that he would not cheat the Muslims again for his own benefit," asked Naseemuddin Siddiqui, senior BSP leader and leader of opposition in the legislative council, charging that the SP was never serious about the Muslims' welfare.
Syed Imam Bukhari, the Imam of Delhi Jama Maszid, has also been openly critical of the state government which he once helped come to power. Regretting the support he extended to the SP in the 2012 state assembly polls by openly campaigning for it, Bukhari told IANS that if "the situation was allowed to continue in the way it is, the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls would be very 'mukhtalif' (different) from the 2012 state assembly polls."
Pointing out the widening drift, he said that minorities were not feeling secure in Akhilesh Yadav's regime. In a complete turnaround from his stance during the assembly elections, he went on to call the state government a "zaalim hukumat" (cruel government).
Muslim leaders also point out the rising instances of communal clashes since the new government has come to power. Between March 2012 and December 2012, the state government has admitted that 27 communal clashes, riots and other instances of violence had taken place in the state. These include three major communal riots at Mathura, Bareilly and Faizabad and minor communal flare ups in Pratapgarh, Ghaziabad, Bareilly, Sambhal, Bijnore, Allahabad, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Lucknow, Kushinagar, Sitapur, Bahraich, Sant Ravidas Nagar and Moradabad.
The brutal killing of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Zia-ul-Haq in Pratapgarh allegedly at the hands of a SP minster who later resigned has also added to the drift. With this incident, the minority leaders seem to have put the state government on notice.
"This is how we are treated by this government," said Salim, a Muslim resident of the Deoria village to which the deceased police officer belonged.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, however, has no apprehensions of being deserted by the Muslim community and says the state government was doing everything to not only bring the community at par with every other segment of the society but also to infuse a sense of security.
"Several welfare schemes have been implemented for the welfare of Muslims and we are committed to the implementation of the recommendations made by Justice Ranganath Mishra and the Sachchar Committee report," Mulayam Singh Yadav told IANS.
The chief minister also has been trying his best to keep the Muslims happy and has undertaken many welfare schemes like Rs.30,000 financial aid for marriage and higher education for Muslim girls under the 'Hamari Beti, Uska Kal' scheme, construction of boundary walls at all Muslim graveyards at a cost of Rs.200 crore and several educational scholarships.
However, it seems the Samajwadi Party government will have to do much more to appease and secure its minority vote-bank.
Mohit Dubey can be contacted at email@example.com