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HindustanTimes Tue,21 Oct 2014

Did Muzaffarnagar benefit riot-tainted politicians?

Manish Chandra Pandey, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, March 11, 2014
First Published: 22:28 IST(11/3/2014) | Last Updated: 07:07 IST(12/3/2014)

Whether politicians accused of fanning communal violence in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh last year for political gains actually succeeded in their plans would become clear on Thursday, the day BJP would announce its candidates for the state.

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Among the aspirants are the three BJP legislators – Bijnore MLA Bhartendu Singh, Sardhana MLA Sangeet Som and Thana Bhawan MLA Suresh Rana--- who were charged with inciting people to violence.

While the government had booked Som and Rana under the National Security Act, the state advisory board had revoked the stringent Act against them and they were released from jail. Bhartendu was released on bail after a few days in jail.

The Special Investigation Team set up to probe the riots recently filed its chargesheet, naming 10 Muslim leaders for inciting communal tensions during that period.

More than 60 people were killed and thousands displaced during the clashes on September 7 and 8 last year.

Bhartendu, Som and Rana have staked claim for Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur Lok Sabha seats, while senior legislator Hukum Singh wants to contest from Kairana seat.

After their release, the BJP had publicly felicitated them at its Agra rally, just ahead of the arrival of BJP chief Rajnath Singh and party's PM candidate Narendra Modi on stage, clearly to make gains from the post-riots religious polarisation.

Another riot-accused saffron leader, Sadhvi Prachi, is also in line for a Lok Sabha ticket. In fact, most of the 18 odd BJP legislators from west UP have expressed desire to contest Lok Sabha elections.

A BJP leader, wishing anonymity, said, "All of them know that Modi and Muzaffarnagar would do the trick. Hence everyone is busy lobbying for a Lok Sabha berth."

Veteran political analyst MM Bahuguna said, "The Muzaffarnagar riots have rejigged old caste equations in the region. The Jat quota (the area has a sizable and influential Jat population) announced by the Congress just before the poll bugle was sounded would also polarise the already fragmented polity even more."

It's not the BJP alone that is aiming to benefit from the after-riot polarisation. The Bahujan Samaj Party has already re-nominated its sitting Muzaffarnagar MP, Qadir Rana, another accused in the riots.

Even Rana's relatives are in hot demand. The ruling Samajwadi Party has fielded Qadir Rana's nephew Shahnawaz from Bijnor, from where the Rashtriya Lok Dal has fielded actor -turned politician Jaya Prada.

Congress leader and former MP Saeed-uz-Zaman, who is among the riot-accused leaders, has not yet been given a ticket by the Congress. He is busy holding press conferences in Muzaffarnagar to claim his innocence, leading to speculations that he might join the poll fray.

Bahuguna feels it's the old game of divide and rule that is being played out in the region.

"Usually there is a sudden communal flare up nearer to the polls. A small incident is blown out of proportion again for obvious reasons," he says.

Professor SK Dwivedi, former head of the political science department of Lucknow University, says politicians accused of fanning riots present themselves as heroes before their communities ahead of the elections.

Senior officials of the intelligence and home departments confirm a spurt in the number of incidents of "communal mischief" aimed at creating tension (read polarisation).


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