Nearly two years after Muzaffarnagar, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is again facing the heat over his failure to prevent communal incidents after the killing of a person in Dadri over allegations of beef consumption.
Akhilesh and his Samajwadi Party (SP) also face the ire of Muslims who are traditional SP voters for not visiting the spots when they were at the receiving end of these incidents.
The SP remained silent when the Dadri incident occurred. It took almost two days for Akhilesh to counter the beef controversy by daring Modi to ban beef export and on the day when other parties issued a press statement condemning the incident, the SP issued a press statement blaming the BJP for cheating people in the garb of the Prime Minister’s Jandhan and Jeevan Jyoti Bima schemes.
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The SP has always handled such incidents at a leisurely pace. Barring the March 2013 incident where DSP Ziaul Haq was killed in Pratapgarh and Akhilesh rushed to his house, he has taken up such incidents only after things have settled down – despite the fact that action is taken against the accused, compensation announced for the victims almost immediately.
SP sources say the reason for the party’s slow response is because the second line of the leadership including ministers are not adept at handling such situations. They do not openly take up the cause of one community unlike the BJP leaders who follow the Hindutva agenda.
Another reason for such a tepid response from the SP is that the incident involves religious overtones. With two communities involved directly and Muslims being traditional voters of SP, it becomes hard for the party to strike a balance. It cannot ignore the Muslims but on the other hand it cannot ignore the sentiments of the Hindus who always have the support of the BJP, always ready to rake these issues.
In such complicated situation, the SP believes it is better to go slow and let things move at their own pace while doing whatever is necessary by of damage control from Lucknow and sending your emissary to the victim’s family.
Avoiding a spot visit is also part of the well-thought strategy. At the spot where every movement is monitored by the media, it is difficult to convince either side. A close door meeting is also not possible with the huge rush of villagers and media. Furthermore, what transpires behind close doors may eventually end up in distorted form outside thus further aggravating the situation adversely for SP. According to SP sources, an aggressive response to the incident will result in listening to numerous voices who raise issues of high handedness by the police after the incident and favouritism to one particular community. The SP wants to avoid complaints about laxity on the part of officials which cannot be countered in front of a crowd.
The only minister speaking out is Minority Welfare Minister Azam Khan. Being the Muslim face of the government, he needs to present an image of being a spokesperson for the Muslim cause.
In contrast to the SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress have been vocal and active. After the drubbing in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, both parties realise that they need the Muslim vote. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi visited Dadri while BSP’s general secretary Naseemuddin Siddiqui visited the Bisara village and gave Rs 11 lakh as compensation to the victims’ family.