The Uttar Pradesh BJP leadership on Thursday felicitated two of its MLAs accused of fanning Muzaffarnagar riots at its Vijay Shanknad rally in Agra, where the party's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi spoke shortly after.
The party felicitated Sangeet Som, the MLA from Meerut’s Sardhana constituency (under Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency) and Suresh Rana, MLA from Thana Bhawan constituency in Kairana (erstwhile Muzaffarnagar) and senior party worker Veerendra Singh Gujjar from Deoband.
Another BJP leader, Dr Sanjeev Balian, who also was to be felicitated, could not reach the venue.
The two MLAs were introduced to the gathering by BJP state president Laxmi Kant Bajpai and garlanded by former state BJP president Surya Pratap Sahi. Senior BJP leaders including former chief minister Kalyan Singh and Vinay Katiyar, Ram Ramapati Tripathi were present during this ceremony.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh had earlier said he was not aware of the felicitation plans at the rally of the party’s prime ministerial nominee.
“The BJP is a communal organisation. It thrives on divide and rule politics, as is evident from their decision to felicitate those whose role in the Muzaffarnagar riots is dubious,” UP minister Rajendra
Chowdhary said on Tuesday.
“We are keeping a watch and won’t let anyone polarise the atmosphere,” Chowdhary, also the SP’s state spokesperson, added.
The SP government had slapped the stringent National Security Act (NSA) on Rana and Som following the September riots in Muzaffarnagar and other parts of western UP. The riots claimed 61 lives and uprooted more than 50,000 from their homes.
Later, a court struck down the NSA against Rana and Som.
“We are felicitating them as they were wrongly implicated in the riots. These leaders became a part of the SP conspiracy to polarise the social fabric in west UP,” state BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai said.
The BJP state unit’s plans came under the scanner after party chief Singh said in Jabalpur he did not know of the felicitation.
“I have no information of this. I am hearing this for the first time, I have no information in this regard,” the PTI quoted Singh as telling reporters in Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) when they sought his comment.
At the same time, Singh charged the SP with falsely implicating Rana and Som.
This move is being seen as an attempt by the Hindu nationalist party to ensure its top leadership remains ‘officially’ out of the loop on the felicitation plan.
Talk floats of Lok Sabha tickets for Rana, Som
Whispers have started that the BJP may consider fielding Rana and Som in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Rana was arrested from Lucknow on September 20 for his alleged role in fanning communal violence.
Som was held a day later on charges of uploading a fake video that played a role in provoking tension. He also faces allegations of having made inflammatory speeches.
Both leaders are already being felicitated locally by party activists.
A meet titled Sangharsh Swabhimaan Samaroh (struggle self-respect congregation) was held in Muzaffarnagar — barely 125 km northeast of Delhi — on Tuesday to honour Rana, Som and 40 party workers sent to jail in riot cases.
At the meet, Rana and Som said the UP government should apologise for "wrongly implicating" them.
Som said he would not surrender before the “persecution of the state government”. Rana struck a similarly defiant tone.
Riot victims still too scared to return to villages
Earlier this month, the UP government informed the Supreme Court that over 41,000 persons, out of 50,955 who had taken shelter in 58 relief camps in riot hit Muzaffarnagar, had gone back to their native places.
A fresh status report, filed by divisional commissioner of Saharanpur, stated nearly 10,000 people were still living in 10 operational camps and residents of six riot-hit villages were not willing to “return to their native villages even after confidence building measures and serious persuasion”.
The violence in Muzaffarnagar district was the latest in a series of flare-ups in UP, India’s most populous and politically crucial state ahead of the general elections next year. UP has 80 Lok Sabha seats, the highest in the country.
The state reeled under communal clashes in 2012, accounting for every third death in the country in such violence.
According to a Union home ministry report, 104 cases of communal tension and violence were reported in UP in 2012. At least 34 people were killed and 456 injured.
2013 has proved equally vicious. Communal unrest has been erupting across western UP districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Aligarh, Bulandshahr, Meerut and other pockets since July.
This year, the state has seen around 40 major incidents of communal violence, of which 21 have been savage.