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Muzaffarnagar riots report: Blow for SP, boost for BJP & Mayawati

Rohit Ghosh | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 5:01 IST

The revelation

  • Justice Vishnu Sahai\'s report on Muzaffarnagar riots indicts SP, BJP
  • SP agrees to table report in winter session; BJP disputes the findings
  • Opposition says the report has exposed that BJP, SP are communal

The fallout

  • Observers feel the report will hurt SP in the 2017 assembly polls
  • BJP may use the report to consolidate its Hindu vote base
  • BSP could benefit the most as SP\'s Muslim vote could go to it

Justice Vishnu Sahai's report on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots has put the Samajwadi Party in a spot, and enthused the opposition.

It has indicted leaders of the ruling party and the BJP for inciting the carnage that claimed at least 60 lives and forced thousands of people, mostly Muslims, to flee their homes.

Justice Sahai has handed over the report, running into 800 pages, to Governor Ram Naik. It will become public when the government tables it in the winter session of the assembly.

But will the report have any significant impact? Will it affect the fortunes of the political parties in the 2017 assembly election, and how?

Blow to the Samjawadi Party

Senior journalist Brijesh Shukla termed the findings as "unprecedented". "It is rare that the state orders a probe and its findings are against the leaders of the ruling party," Shukla said.

"Also, it's pretty common for the BJP to be accused of inciting riots. But SP being held guilty for the riots, that is rare."

Shukla said the revelations could snowball into a major issue and severely damage the SP's prospects in the assembly polls. "After all, the SP considers itself as the only representative of the Muslims in the state," he explained.

The BJP will try to use the findings to strength its base among the Hindus, says Prof Kaushal Mishra

Indeed, the opposition BSP, lying low since its humbling in last year's general election, didn't waste time to take aim at the Akhilesh Yadav government. "The report should be made public at the earliest. Those who have suffered in the riots should get justice and the guilty should be punished," party chief Mayawati said in a statement.

"It is now clear that both the SP and the BJP divide the society on communal lines for political gain."

Akhilesh's handling of the carnage has drawn flak since the beginning. First, his administration failed to prevent the riots from spreading to neighbouring districts of Muzaffarnagar. Then, senior minister Azam Khan was accused of asking the police to act in a "biased manner". If that wasn't enough, the state just dumped the riot survivors into camps that lacked even basic necessities.

A minister of state admitted that the report will harm the SP. "If SP leaders have been indicted, then the party's reputation will be seriously damaged. The leadership will now have to decide how to undo the damage."

Not bad news for the BJP

The BJP, seen as the SP's primary opponent in the 2017 election, denied its leaders were involved as claimed by the report.

"The report is yet to be made public and we are yet to read it. But one thing is for sure: no BJP leader was involved in the riots," the party's UP chief Laxmikant Bajpai told Catch.

Bajpai claimed the BJP had conducted its own inquiry into the carnage. "Our probe found that the SP leaders were the ones who incited the riots," he said.

Now that the people know the designs of SP and BJP, they will again vote for us, says Congress

Seemingly, the BJP is trying not to be linked with the carnage, but Atul Chandra, a veteran journalist based in Lucknow, believes the report isn't really a bad news for the party.

"The BJP will be emboldened by the report," he said. "Riots break out in 2013 and the BJP almost sweeps the general election the following year. So, what should one conclude?"

Lifeline for the BSP

Kaushal Kishore Mishra, who teaches political science at Benares Hindu University said the report will affect the elections in Bihar as well.

"It will become an issue in those regions of Bihar that are close to UP. The Hindu vote will consolidate but only up to an extent," he said. "But once the Bihar election is over, the report will become a major issue in UP. The focus of 2017 campaign will on Muzaffarnagar and western UP."

This, Mishra said, will benefit the BSP the most as disgruntled Muslims voters are likely to turn to it. "The BJP will also try to gain by using the findings to strength its base among the Hindus."

The Congress, too, both the SP and the BJP to task. "It is clear that the SP and the BJP divide the society and incite riots for political gain. Neither party believes in development," said senior party leader Shailendra Dixit.

"Now that the people know their designs, they will again vote for the Congress."

That sounds too optimistic given the party has been pushed to the margins of UP's political landscape.

First published: 26 September 2015, 11:06 IST