Maya’s Pilibhit dilemma | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Maya’s Pilibhit dilemma

delhi Updated: Mar 30, 2009 23:27 IST
Debashish Mukerji
Debashish Mukerji
Hindustan Times
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Why use a sledgehammer to kill — or in this case severely punish — a fly?

BJP’s Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi was in enough trouble already for his anti Muslim speeches with a spate of FIRs filed against him. Why did Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati follow it up by invoking the draconian National Security Act (NSA) as well?

All of Friday, when Varun withdrew his anticipatory bail plea and announced his decision to return to Pilibhit the next day, the signals emanating from Lucknow indicated he would not even be arrested. If he sought arrest — as indeed he did — he would be told that investigations into the cases were not yet complete, and sent away. With Lok Sabha polls in the offing, Mayawati’s government did not want to take any step that would evoke sympathy for Varun and thereby improve his and the BJP’s poll prospects.

If a very different script was ultimately enacted over the next two days, it was clearly because another political consideration prevailed. The BSP realised that Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party could interpret any softness on Mayawati’s part in dealing in Varun as evidence of her collusion with the BJP. UP Muslims have not forgotten that on all the three previous occasions that Mayawati became chief minister, she did so with BJP support.

Given the Muslim disquiet over Mulayam Singh’s new found friendship with Kalyan Singh, who as CM had presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the BSP has great hopes of winning over a good section of the Muslim vote this time. All such hope would be dashed if the SP convinced Muslim voters that her professed secularism was a façade.

It was a hard choice between giving an electoral boost to either the SP or the BJP. Mayawati’s decision shows which party she considers her main opponent. In any case, given the BJP’s poor standing in the state — partymen do not expect their LS tally, out of 80 seats, to cross double figures — allowing it to seek sympathy votes will hurt her party far less than yielding any advantage to the SP.