The Samajwadi Party's move to join hands with Kalyan Singh, who was the Uttar Pradesh chief minister when the Babri mosque was demolished 17 years ago, may dent the party's Muslim vote bank in the coming Lok Sabha elections with some of the minority community leaders openly raising a banner of revolt.
Azam Khan, a confidant of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, and MP Saleem Sherwani claimed the Muslims "cannot forget the faces responsible" for the demolition and were "annoyed" by SP's move to tie up with Kalyan, "a hardcore Hindutva leader".
With Kalyan's son Rajbir joining the SP and the former chief minister himself deciding to campaign for the party, the voices of dissent among the minority community leaders which started with the SP supporting the United Progressive Alliance government on the issue of nuclear deal with the US, have become louder.
"Getting closer to Kalyan Singh has annoyed the Muslims, who constitute a major chunk of party's vote base," Khan said in a recent statement.Terming the move as a betrayal of the Muslims' trust, Sherwani claimed the SP is going to pay a "heavy price" for it. "Over the years, the sense of hurt among the Muslim community over the demolition of Babri Masjid may have been reduced," he told PTI."But they cannot forget the faces responsible for what happened and Kalyan Singh was one of the most prominent leaders from the BJP during the demolition of Babri Masjid as he was the CM of UP during the unfortunate happening at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992," said the MP from Budaun who has been denied a ticket by the party said.
While the tirade by these Muslim leaders against their own party has given an opportunity to arch-rival BSP to hit
out at the SP, a section of the Congress, which is in seat-sharing talks, too is uncomfortable with the move.
"It is a cruel joke on the Muslims that the person, who was responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid (Kalyan), has now joined hands with the SP," UP cabinet minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui said.
"A significant section of the Congress leaders in UP are very uncomfortable with Kalyan Singh joining hands with
Mulayam Singh Yadav. We wanted to move along with the SP, since they helped the UPA government to win the trust vote," a senior Congress leader said."But most of the leaders here consider Kalyan Singh as the villain in the demolition of Babri Masjid and are finding it difficult to digest Kalyan's joining hands with SP," he said.
Azam Khan, who is considered as the SP's Muslim face, also reminded the party workers of the roles played by Kalyan and Mulayam."I have only reminded the people of two important dates. One was October 30, 1990, when Mulayam had assured the people of the state to safeguard Babri Masjid, which he did. The other one was December 6, 1992, when a crowd of thousands of Karsewaks reached the Masjid and demolished it. I have only reminded the people about the two heroes of Ayodhya--- Kalyan and Mulayam."
Noting that Muslims comprised 20 per cent of voters in Uttar Pradesh, Sherwani said, "I fail to understand how we
give up on Muslim votes hoping to gain miniscule Lodh votes that Kalyan Singh could bring in. The SP is going to pay a heavy price for this. In fact this move will boomerang on the party and the BSP will certainly derive maximum political mileage from it," Sherwani said.
The MP was also angry over the fact that none of the Muslim leaders of SP were consulted on the issue of joining
hands with Kalyan.
However, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary termed Khan's remarks as "unfortunate" and said,
"they will boost the morale of the party's rivals".
"Even Shiv Sena had been with the BJP during the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, but its prominent leaders like Sanjay Nirupam, Narain Rane and Chagan Bhujbal are now no longer with the Shiv Sena," said Chaudhary.
Putting up a brave front, the Bharatiya Janata Party claims the exit of Kalyan will not affect its poll prospect.
"An individual has never been above the party and will never be. And this case is no exception," senior state BJP leader Hriday Narayan Dikshit said. However, BJP insiders told PTI that the party could "lose 7-8 Lok Sabha seats in the Lodh dominated areas of the state, where Kalyan still exercises his clout, especially in the districts of Etah, Aligarh, Hamirpur and Bulandshahr."
Sources also added that the BJP had tried its best to woo Kalyan and had also given a Rajya Sabha ticket to his
protege Kusum Rai but failed."Since Kalyan was inactive in the party circle for almost past two years, hence his exit and joining hands with the SP did not come as a surprise for partymen," said another BJP leader requesting anonymity.