The raging controversy over recitation of India's national song "Vande Mataram" has apparently come in handy for the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which plans to use it as a tool ahead of assembly polls next year.
BJP bigwigs in the state have decided to take the "Vande Mataram" issue on a high political pitch, with hardly any major issue left on which to consolidate its Hindu vote bank. The issue finds prominence in the revised agenda for the party's three-day conclave at Dehradun later this week.
The state BJP leadership has decided to hold public recitation of the national song at each of the state's 70 district headquarters on September 7, the day marking completion of centenary celebrations of "Vande Mataram".
Several Islamic leaders have, on the other hand, urged Muslim students not to recite the song on that day. A section of Muslims consider the song un-Islamic.
State BJP President Keshrinath Tripathi said on Tuesday: "We have issued a circular to all our district units spread across the length and breadth of the state to organise recitation of 'Vande Mataram' at all district headquarters on September 7."
"I am required to be at the Dehradun meet, otherwise I would have myself led the recitation programme in the state capital here," he said. "If necessary, we will carry it forward to the assembly polls as well. After all, the common people ought to know that there are Indian citizens who are opposed to any kind of salutation to the motherland."
Asked what was the need for adopting such an aggressive posture on the issue, he said: "We have been compelled to take it up simply because some leading Islamic clerics have issued all kinds of fatwas (decrees) against the recitation of the country's national song in schools."
When he was reminded of a denial issued by the chief of the Deoband, the country's oldest Islamic school of thought in Saharanpur district, about issue of any fatwa in this regard, Tripathi shot back: "They have back-tracked simply because realisation has dawned upon them that there is a public upsurge against their move to oppose the national song."
Terming the Islamic clerics as "politically very shrewd", the state BJP chief claimed, "Whatever Hindu organisations are doing now to oppose the fatwas is a reaction to their own doing".
Meanwhile, several Hindu organisations, including those lying dormant, have suddenly risen up to fall in line with the BJP. These include the Hindu Jagran Manch, Durga Vahini as well as Shiv Sena, which otherwise has very little visibility in Uttar Pradesh.