For someone whose political growth took place alongside the Mandal-Mandir politics, remaining silent on an issue such as the Ayodhya title suit verdict was difficult for Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
But silent he remained, despite his desperation to regain the Muslims’ confidence, which he had lost after his short-lived bonhomie with Kalyan Singh, who was UP chief minister the day the Babri Masjid was brought down.
Yadav earned the ire of the sangh parivar when the UP police fired on Ayodhya kar sewaks in 1990, when he was CM.
Such was the antipathy against the follower of socialist Ram Manohar Lohia that he got the epithet “Maulana Mulayam”, a snide at his supposed sympathy for the Muslims at the expense of the Hindus. But now, not only did he not make any comment, he told his party men to steer clear of the issue.
When he met the press on the eve of the verdict day in Lucknow, he spoke about the Commonwealth Games but not Ayodhya. On media pressure he just said: “From day one we have been consistent in our stand — the issue should be either settled by court or through negotiation.”
The inference? Is Yadav now emerging out of a regional politician’s closet and trying to don the mantle of a national politician? Will he leave UP politics in charge of his son Akhilesh Yadav, who studied engineering in Australia. Of late, he has been teaching him how to run the party.
The former UP chief minister’s core constituency is the Yadav-Muslim combine, which helped him become chief minister thrice. Yadav, famous for keeping his finger on the voter’s pulse, knows that communal or divisive politics would not help him regain his political strength in an era where the new generation is walking the development path. He already faces competition from a resurgent Congress struggling to rebuild its traditional vote bank of Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims on the development plank, and a belligerent Mayawati playing the dignity card to the hilt besides bolstering her image of being an iron lady.
He knows that regaining the Muslims’ confidence is not going to be an easy task after he publicly embraced Kalyan Singh. Though he apologised to the community, the damage for the time being has been done, with the Muslims veering close to the Congress.
But everything considered, it is said about Yadav that he is down but not out. The party he wrestler from Etawah heads holds second position in the UP assembly. Its strength in the Lok Sabha is also a precious 23.