Regret for the killing of Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots was expected from Narendra Modi, but it was Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav who eventually expressed regret two days back for the firing on Hindu Kar Sevaks at Ayodhya in 1990.
Incidentally, this event had earned him
the respect of most Muslims and the wrath of many Hindus in those days of polarisation in UP.
And, known as the most "pro-Muslim" voice in his party, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh wrote a blog post two days back, titled "Am I anti-Hindu?" Singh took pains to emphasise that Sanatana Dharm (Hinduism) was different from "divisive" Hindutva espoused by the Sangh.
While Yadav told the media that the decision to order firing was "painful" but he had no other option, Singh asserted he was a practising Hindu, but was victim of RSS propaganda that he was "anti-Hindu".
Clearly, there is an attempt on the part of the two mainstream politicians seen as politically very "pro-Muslim" to reach out to Hindus at a time when Modi has embarked on a campaign hurling what many see as oblique insults on the Muslim community.
"I am a practicing Hindu. I was given Diksha by His Holiness Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Dwarka and Joshi Math in 1983.I regularly pray every day for half an hour... I have nine temples at my residence at Raghogarh," Singh wrote.
Modi is clearly attempting to polarise the electorate between Hindus - generally a very scattered vote - and Muslims, who would want Modi defeated. The strategy - it seems - is aimed at UP and Bihar, very crucial to the BJP's Lok Sabha prospects as they account for 120 seats.
Observers see these statements as meaning that secular parties don't want to risk Modi painting them as "anti-Hindu".
Muslims are anyway going to vote to defeat him: what the SP and Congress don't want is some Hindus turning towards Modi across established caste vote banks. Though there is no "Hindu vote", the sheer majority numbers can enable even a small shift to affect results.
In UP and Bihar, where Hindus vote as per caste, polarisation can somewhat dent established patterns.
"All other parties are now talking the same language and Modi alone is different. This can attract some Hindu votes and also confuse Muslim votes, as they have to tactically choose seat-wise from many options like the Congress, SP, RJD and JD(U)," a UP academic not wanting to be named said.
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