Rajat Sharma

How UP elections are now fast gaining a communal colour

akbThe colours in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are now changing fast, with clerics and mafia gangsters entering the fray. On Tuesday, the BJP tried to corner the Congress on the issue of hate speeches given by a Maulana from Bareilly, Tauqeer Raza. A few days ago this Maulana met Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi and announced that his outfit will lend support to the Congress. BJP leaders promptly reminded how this Maulana had given threats to Hindus in his hate speech, a few weeks ago.

The Maulana had threatened that “if Muslim youths take law into their own hands, Hindus in Hindusthan will have no place to hide”. Similarly when SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav gave the Kairana nomination to Nahid Hassan, BJP leaders reminded how it was because of him that Hindus living in Kairana had to flee five years ago. Nahid Hassan has a long list of criminal charges against him and last week he surrendered to police, and was immediately sent to judicial custody. Former UP minister Azam Khan’s son Abdullah Azam was similarly supported by Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday. He said, most of the cases filed against Abdullah Azam were false.

Maulana Tauqeer Raza is not a politician. He never contested any assembly election, but floated an outfit called Ittehad-e-Millat Council. Last week, he announced that his outfit would lend support to the Congress. He met Priyanka Gandhi, and said Priyanka and her brother Rahul Gandhi were true secular leaders.

The Maulana also said, Akhilesh Yadav was more dangerous than the BJP for Muslims in UP. While SP leaders remained silent and chose to ignore his remarks, BJP leaders took the cue and questioned his meeting with Priyanka Gandhi.

BJP spokesman Sambit Patra alleged that the Congress, by aligning with this Maulana, was trying to inject communal venom in UP politics. Sambit Patra brought out old speeches of Maulana Tauqeer Raza, in which he had said, “Muslims are now losing patience. If Muslim youths take law into their own hands, Hindus in Hindusthan will have no place to take shelter”.

The Maulana had called a Muslim religious conference on January 7 in Bareilly, in reply to a Hindu Dharma Sansad in Haridwar, where hate speeches against Muslims were given by some Hindu sadhus. At the Islamia ground in Bareilly, thousands of Muslims assembled, defying Covid protocol.

At the meeting, Tauqeer Raza said: “I visit many villages and localities and meet our youths. Our people have now started losing patience. I find anger brewing in the hearts of Muslim youths. I fear the day, if this anger explodes and our youths go out of my control. Some of my people tell me, Maulana, you are a coward. I tell them, I will die first and then let you people die. That’s why I am telling my Hindu brothers: The day our youths take law into their own hands, you (Hindus) will not get any place in Hindusthan to take shelter.”

Clearly the Maulana was trying to incite Muslim youths. A week after making this hate speech, he appeared at a press conference with Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi and UP state Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu, where he publicly extended support to the party. Congress leaders extolled the Maulana as “Aala-e-Hazrat”.

At the press conference, the Maulana said, if Muslims want peace in UP, they should defeat both Akhilesh Yadav and the BJP, because both were enemies of Islam, and incited communal riots. The Maulana showed a picture taken of a meeting between RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat and SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, and alleged that “a secret pact” has been reached between both SP and RSS, and Muslims must not trust Akhilesh Yadav. The best alternative for Muslims is to strengthen the Congress, the Maulana said.

The picture the Maulana was referring to was taken during Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu’s grand daughter’s wedding, where both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mohan Bhagwat were present. The cleric tried to give this brief meeting a political twist to sow suspicions in the minds of Muslims.

There is no doubt that Maulana Tauqeer Raza’s hate speeches are full of venom. He tries to create a gulf between Hindus and Muslims, but the surprising part is that Congress leaders have chose to ignore his hate speeches. In the past too, the Congress committed the mistake of aligning with the Maulana.

In 2006, this Maulana had announced a reward of Rs 25 crore to any person who can behead US President George W. Bush. This dented India’s image abroad. During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Congress leader Digvijay Singh took the Maulana to a press conference to announce an alliance, but when probing questions about his ‘reward’ and hate speeches were made, the Congress leaders could not reply satisfactorily. Digvijay Singh and others had to cut short the press conference abruptly. And now, again, the Congress has been cornered over taking support from the controversial Maulana.

On Tuesday, BJP spokesman Sambit Patra, at a press conference, read out the names of mafia gangsters and those with criminal cases, given tickets by Samajwadi Party. He questioned why SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav gave ticket to a mafia gangster Nahid Hassan, who was responsible for the exodus of Hindu families from Kairana. Nahid Hasan is presently in judicial custody, and the SP will now give the ticket to his sister.

Patra asked whether the SP would now give tickets to those who are blatantly anti-Hindus. Among the others having criminal cases, who have been fielded by SP include: Rafiq Ansari from Meerut City, Shahid Manzoor from Kithaur and Aslam Chaudhary from Dhaulana.

When Akhilesh Yadav was asked at a press conference on this issue, he replied that most of the criminal cases filed against his party candidates were false. He said, cases against Nahid Hassan, former minister Azam Khan and his son Abdullah Azam were mostly false. “Even CM Yogi Adityanath has dozens of criminal cases against him, and he may never be able to contest elections”, Akhilesh Yadav said.

Azam Khan’s son Abdullah Azam has many cases filed against him, he was in jail for several months, and was released two days ago. BJP leader Brij Lal said, a court has even quashed his membership as MLA.

In the UP assembly elections, the Congress is nowhere in the race. The main battle is being fought between the BJP and Samajwadi Party. Both the SP and Congress are trying their best to reach out to Muslim voters. The interesting part is that both Akhilesh Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi had been avoiding any mention of Muslims in their speeches till now. Both fear that if they raise Muslim issues, the BJP will promptly pick this up and make a counter-attack.

Both Akhilesh and Priyanka are trying to take support of Muslim leaders, not openly, but behind closed doors. Both SP and Congress leaders think that Muslim voters will not vote for Yogi Adityanath, and hence a tug-of-war is going on for Muslim votes between both these parties. Both Akhilesh and Priyanka were till now treading this path softly, but on Tuesday, the cat was out of the bag. Priyanka was cornered on the issue of hate speeches by Maulana Tauqeer Raza, while Akhilesh was cornered on the issue of giving tickets to Muslims leaders like Nahid Hassan and Abdullah Azam.

Both these leaders know that they cannot evade the Muslim issue any more. That is why Muslim voters are being told to do “silently” (chupchaap karo), as was done during Bengal elections, when BJP had given the slogan “Chup chaap, Kamal chhaap” (vote for Lotus silently). Akhilesh Yadav’s message to Muslims now is: “Chup Chaap, Cycle chhaap” (Vote for Cycle silently).

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