Two decades back he may have become their icon by ordering police firing on kar sevaks at Ayodhya, but Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has suddenly irked Muslims, particularly in west Uttar Pradesh, beyond measure.
As UP heads for polls at a time of increasing communal tensions, Muslims in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar vent out their anger against SP openly.
Their charge: SP, claiming to be their greatest protector for decades, failed to protect them when the Jats launched an attack on them a week back after a day of clashes between the two communities. “We were SP supporters all through. But there has been no relief from the government in these past days. The central forces were better than UP police,” says M Nabi.
He opens up on politics too.
“Muslims won’t vote for Mulayam Singh Yadav this time. We’ll vote for either the BSP or Congress, depending on which among the two can beat the BJP under Narendra Modi here,” he says.
Visibly agitated, a group of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar town even say the SP is no better than the BJP.
“Akhilesh’s skull cap was just a gimmick. SP has acted like the RSS and deceived us. Modi and Mulayam are two sides of the same coin,” says MK Siddiqui, a businessman.
Contractor Shariq Adil Khan says Mayawati was much better as chief minister.
“She never took one-sided action. Her government was 100 % better,” he adds.
Clearly, the elevation of Narendra Modi and the appointment of Amit Shah as the BJP’s UP in-charge has polarised opinion further.
Crucially, a potential combination of Muslims and Dalits can be unbeatable in UP: there are 18% Muslims and 21% Dalits in the state.