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Govt may lose Muslim favour

The danger of Muslim opinion being swayed by anti-US rhetoric isn’t lost on anyone, including the UPA leadership, reports Srinand Jha.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2007 04:33 IST
Srinand Jha

Just like it happened on the Bofors issue in the run-up to the 1989 general election, the possibility of a rallying of forces against the Congress on the Indo-US nuclear deal issue cannot be ruled out, according to former prime minister VP Singh. And the danger of Muslim opinion being swayed by anti-US rhetoric isn’t lost on anyone, including the UPA leadership.

Talking to HT, Singh said Muslims and Hindus alike were resentful of the unequal deal that would compromise India’s sovereignty and reduce it to a slave of the United States. “I was not for bringing down this government but the issue is not about the government but about the country. And the Congress will have pay a heavy political price,” he said.

Singh is understood to have approached the DMK, a UPA ally, to oppose the deal but the party did not respond.

Sharing Singh’s views are partners of the third front, or United Nationalist Progressive Alliance. The Samajwadi Party and Telegu Desam Party, in particular, are pleased with the perceived advantage they hold in case of mid-term polls banking heavily on the Muslim vote. According to the SP’s Shahid Siddiqui, coming as it did after India’s controversial decision to align with the US-led campaign on Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear deal is a complete sell-out. “My assessment is that both the Congress and BJP will suffer heavily in the next general election,” he said.

If there is a mid-term poll, the Congress will be solely responsible for it and the UNPA allies are “fully prepared” for it, said TDP leader Yarran Naidu, adding that the UPA’s policies have been consistently pro-US and the electorate understands this well.

The UNPA, in recent months, has consistently been bidding for a slice of the Muslim vote chunk, evident in its insistence on a second term for APJ Abdul Kalam and its choice of a Muslim vice-presidential candidate.

Nationwide protests last year against India’s vote against Iran had led to strange alliances: the Left, SP and Maoist and Muslim groups on the same platform; the cry against US imperialism blending with voices against the Bush administration’s anti-Muslim policies. “The emergence of a similar situation on the nuclear issue is likely,” said BSP leader Illyas Azmi.

Raghunath Jha of the RJD, however, did not visualize Muslim voters turning against the Congress. “My view is the Left will suffer if it brings the untimely end of the UPA government.”