Modi, UP violence give a new twist to poll politics
By Santwana Bhattacharya | Published: 15th September 2013 08:01 AM |
Two seemingly unconnected developments -- Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s elevation on the national stage as the BJP’s prime ministerial choice and the fear psychosis created after the communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh -- are likely to determine how politics would play out in the next few months leading up to the Assembly polls in five States and general elections.
While the first development shows gradual rise of State-level leaders to the national stage, the second incident exposes shattered images of some such leaders and the electoral opportunities they open up for their political opponents. State-level leaders and their politics have been influencing the national politics for quite sometime now. Parties with an eye on a five-year term at the treasury benches have been preparing electoral blueprints and the Modi’s elevation and the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar could well be considered a fallout of this play of power politics.
The Muzaffarnagar clashes have left 48 people dead, 100 injured and over 43,000 homeless, and raised a question mark on the trust factor of the local administration and young Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Even his party, the SP, has blamed the CM’s naiveté.
The sub-text, of course, has been the fake video clip that went spiral and partly triggered the violence between the Jat and Muslim communities. It was allegedly uploaded by BJP legislator Bharatendra Singh. State authorities chased him to Dehradun on Saturday but failed to arrest him.
The maha-panchayat, which actually caused the violence, however, allegedly had the BSP, Congress as well the BJP legislators inciting communal anger among the Jat farmers attending it.
A section of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress allege that Modi aide Amit Shah-inspired politics in the State was what led to the communal flare-up in Muzaffarnagar and more would follow.
The villages, State officials admitted, were still volatile while the urban areas have been brought under control. Two Jat farmers were hit in retaliatory firing by their Muslims neighbours in Shamli on Saturday afternoon, they said.
In this wake, the Congress core committee has decided that it would be better if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits the troubled zone along with party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Under pressure from the party’s local Muslim leaders, Congress incharge of Uttar Pradesh Madhusudan Mistry had earlier announced that the Congress president and vice-president would be visiting the violence-hit area. He hadn’t, however, mentioned any dates for the same. Rahul’s visit still remains uncertain. Manmohan and Sonia are likely to visit Muzaffarnagar on Monday. The Prime Minister’s intervention, a Congress core group leader indicated, would show the seriousness the Centre is attaching to tackling the situation in a non-partisan manner. At the same time, it would also underscore the Congress’ concerns that the victims who have lost their families, kin and home, and are lodged in relief camps, get proper protection.
The Prime Minister, it was pointed out, has already announced `2 lakh compensation to the victims. Now by visiting, would he be following A B Vajpayee’s footsteps? It is not being admitted but the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said it would ensure that the visit was not politicised.
Close on the heels of announcement of Manmohan’s visit to Muzaffarnagar, State officials on Saturday said Akhilesh would be visiting the victims at hospitals and relief camps. Despite the firing in Shamli, Akhilesh might be going to the camp there. “Why should a stray firing come in the way of his visit? He will be going by chopper,” an official said. Well, there are a number of relief camps at Banal, Taoli, Bohpa and Shahpur, where scared riot-hit people have taken shelter. Why not Akhilesh visit them?
As the view that the SP has been badly singed by playing into the VHP-BJP game plan of dividing the Uttar Pradesh electorate on communal lines gains ground, the Congress would cautiously play its politics around the administrative failure of the State government and make a big issue of its failure to provide proper relief and facilities in the relief camps. One of the reasons for Akhilesh rushing to the troubled zone was to ensure that the Prime Minister’s visit does not expose his government’s failure on this count.
The local administration admits that they have not been able to provide anything more than food packets at relief camps as people were coming in and moving out to other areas to settle down. “They don’t want to stay at the relief camps,” the officials noted.
Mistry, however, claimed that the Congress could teach the SP how to run relief operations better. But he feigned ignorance about the activities of a local Congress leader named in the FIR.
Till now, the curfew, first lifted for after a week on Thursday, was used by the local administration to keep political leaders from visiting the violence-hit area. RLD chief and Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and his son Jayanth were detained, so was senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. No one else, not even BSP chief and former CM Mayawati ventured there, showing what appeared to be political maturity.With the CM and the PM scheduled to visit the area, the rush to mine the grievances would soon begin. More so as the polarisation in Muzaffarnagar would decide how the electoral politics happens in Uttar Pradesh, a key state about which it is said that the road to New Delhi goes through Lucknow.