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Is Mulayam playing the 'soft Hindutva' card as UP goes to polls in 2017?

Somi Das | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:29 IST

Does Mulayam Singh Yadav regret his decision of opening fire at Kar Sevaks on 30 October, 1990, when the BJP-VHP Ram Ayodhya Movement was at its peak?

On Sunday, the SP chief and former UP chief minister chose to talk about his decision taken over two decades ago- something that earned him the title of "Mullah Mulayam".

Interestingly, he chose the birth anniversary of socialist leader Karpoori Thakur to make this statement. Addressing his party members, he said: "I feel sad for firing on Kar Sewaks but it was necessary to save the religious place (Babri Mosque)."

On more than one occasion in the last one year, the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has said it was "painful" and "sad" that he had to order the firing on the Kar Sevaks who had gathered from across the country to build a Ram Temple where the Babri Masjid stood for 500 years.

Mulayam has also stated in public fora that the order had cost him Hindu votes. Last year, addressing party members in Lucknow on Ram Manohar Lohia's 104th birth anniversary, he had said: "Sixteen people had died there and a large number of people were injured. Thereafter, I had lost the Hindu votes completely."

How did the firing give an impetus to the Ram Mandir movement?

When Kar Sevaks were injured and killed in the firing, it gave the VHP and the BJP the ammunition they needed to start a nation-wide campaign. The right-wing parties started off with the 'asthi-yatra' of the Kar Sevaks who were dubbed 'martyrs'.

These yatra triggered riots and left over 200 people dead. The movement worked out very well for the BJP in terms of electoral politics. The campaign helped the BJP win the 1991 UP assembly elections with 221 seats. Eventually, in December 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished under the BJP rule in UP.

Mulayam knows the BJP might make Ram Mandir an issue in the polls

The firing and subsequent events also helped Mulayam win the unflinching faith of Muslims in the state, helping him forge an alliance with the Yadav and Muslim vote bank. This social engineering helped him win many an election in the state and to lead a formidable regional party with a say in national politics.

However, things have changed now. There is a BJP government at the Centre. The party decimated the BSP and SP, winning 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats under the leadership of master strategist Amit Shah.

Mandir politics are back in vogue. The VHP has already started bringing in stones for the construction of the Ram temple. The right wing group has vowed to renew the temple movement. BJP's Subramanian has been leading from the front to gather momentum on the issue as well.

Mulayam certainly understands that with the elections in 2017, the Mandir issue can take political centre stage.

As of now, the SP's official stand is that it respects the Allahabad court's order. Plus, the statements made by party spokespersons make it clear that the party will resist any attempt by the BJP to politicise the issue.

Earlier this month, SP spokesperson and Cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav had said: "Na ek eint uthegi na hi lagegi (neither a single brick will be lifted nor installed ."

However, this tough posturing by the party set aside, the SP Supremo's self introspection on the issue after over two decades of the decision, might just be seen as resorting to a "soft-Hindutva" stand.

First published: 25 January 2016, 2:47 IST
Somi Das @Somi_Das

Somi brings with her the diverse experience of working in a hard news environment with ample exposure to long-form journalism to Catch. She has worked with Yahoo! News, India Legal and Newslaundry. As the Assistant Editor of Catch Live, she intends to bring quality, speed and accuracy to the table. She has a PGD in Print and TV journalism from YMCA, New Delhi, and is a lifelong student of Political Science.