ALL HIS life firebrand champion of Hindutva Neeraj Chaturvedi has been a wily learner of politics. So when the disillusioned three-time MLA joined the Samajwadi Party he was more than willing to shun his ‘bad boy’ image among Muslims.
So Chaturvedi’s managers thought that the best way to the heart would be through the shrine. So the rabble-rousing Neeraj, SP bigwigs and known Muslim faces kicked off the plan with a visit to the revered shrine of Dada Miyan. He offered an embroidered ‘chaddar’, flower petals and presented an altogether different self.
The shrine diplomacy went off well and Neeraj went home with the feeling that his new face would be accepted.
But then it took less than 24 hours for Neeraj to get the feedback when Muslim League members and several locals went to the shrine and cleansed it.
This clearly mirrors the anger that the minorities hold against the former BJP legislator. And it’s not because of the party he represented till last week, but for all he had done in the past. His acts virtually make him the most-hated politician for Muslims.
That the resentment is strong is borne from the fact that the local SP leadership has failed to arrange a single public meeting of Neeraj in Muslim areas.
All energies are directed at convincing the masses about the Chief Minister’s masterstroke to weaken the BJP in the city. City president Mohd Nasiruddin has only one line to tell the people: “Agar subah ka bhula shaam ko ghar aa jaye, usay bhoola mahin kahte”.
But as it seems his punch line is making little effect and anti-Neeraj demonstrations are gaining momentum. “How can Muslims forget his role, his language during the Ram Janambhoomi movement or for that matter during the riots. He always turned the other community on us,” said Haji Mohd Athar, city unit president of the Muslim League.
While the developments keep SP leaders on tenterhooks, the Congress leadership cannot hide their smile. The strategy for the moment is to recall all the incidents pertaining to the 2001 riots in which Neeraj as a BJP MLA has a dubious record. Needless to say, Neeraj’s stand had helped the violence to spiral out of control. Thirty lives had been lost in the process. “He’s a known Muslim basher and cannot wipe off his communal traits overnight,” said PCC member Rizwan Hamid.
“Why Muslims are angry only with Neeraj and not with sitting MLA Salil Bishnoi? He’s more acceptability than Neeraj,” said Dr Tariq Raza Fatimi a leader of the United Democratic Front.
As for the SP, it hoped to use Neeraj to make a dent in the BJP base not only in civic election but also in the assembly poll.
Leaders unhappy with the candidature of Neeraj say the party cannot afford such a strong reaction amongst its core constituency.
As it’s becoming known that taxation and finance advisor to the CM Surendra Mohan Agarwal is the man behind the Neeraj coup, he may well feel the heat in realising his long-cherished dream of becoming an MLA from Generalgunj. It’s a constituency where Muslims decide the fate of candidates.