In the wake of the recent communal carnage that left a trail of death and destruction in Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas, the SP on Wednesday replaced its candidate for the Saharanpur Lok Sabha seat, Feeroj Aftab. And the party has fielded Imran Masood in place of Aftab.
Earlier, the party was forced to change its candidate from the Bagpath constituency after Sampal Shastri had refused to remain in the fray after the riots had ravaged parts of Western Uttar Pradesh.
Since a majority of those killed in the riots belonged to the Muslim community, which is full of resentment towards the Akhilesh Yadav Government, the SP top brass is sensing trouble for the party in the 2014 LS elections.
Besides, the SP leadership has had to contend with the resignations of several of its local leaders. Not only that, some of them have been engaged in efforts to whip up anti-government sentiments in their community.
It is for this reason that the party has decided to observe ‘Sadbhawana Saptah’ (communal harmony week) to reach out to the resenting sections of the society and to heal the wounds of the Muslim community.
And from Wednesday, the SP has been holding seminars and conferences, besides staging public rallies to convey the message of communal harmony and peace.
The BSP-led Opposition, meanwhile, has described it as a political stunt to hide the state government’s abject failure in dealing with the riots.
More worryingly for the SP Government, intelligence reports had indicated that the SP leaders were behind the massive protests witnessed during Akhilesh’s visit to the affected areas. Apparently, the dissidents were convinced that the riots and the large-scale displacement were due to the criminal inaction on the part of the state government.
Meanwhile, Aftab, who was unceremoniously dropped as the SP candidate, is said to be deeply unhappy with the party leadership over its failure to tackle the orgy of violence.
Incidentally, he was already under tremendous pressure from his community and supporters to pull out of the fray.
However, before he could do so, the SP leadership acted swiftly thereby denying him the chance to force the party on to the defensive.
Until now the SP has changed 17 of its candidates, which it had announced earlier, and the changes effected in the candidates’ list has given rise to factionalism and internecine bickering within the party’s district unit.