Cornered by accusations of playing votebank politics and turning UP into a communal tinderbox, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday said the Muzaffarnagar riots actually did his government and Samajwadi Party (SP) a lot of harm.
“We are in absolute power. Why would we create communal disturbance? I want industrialists to come and invest in UP. Will they come now? How can the government do anything that would tarnish its own image?” he said in an exclusive interview to HT.
He blamed rivals for the riots, and urged “secular parties” to remain united. “Some political parties are playing with fire and I would appeal to all not to pay heed to rumours and foil their design.”
On the spurt in communal clashes during his regime, he said, “I have repeatedly said some forces are out to destroy the social fabric of the state. Even trivial issues like eve-teasing are magnified and given a communal hue. In Kannauj today, a small incident of clash over a minor cycle accident was magnified as a Hindu-Muslim clash. Such small incidents have been usually sorted out by local seniors, rarely requiring government intervention.”
Refusing to join issue with the opposition demanding his scalp, the CM, who has been under severe attack over his ineptitude in handling the Muzaffarnagar riots, said his priority was to rebuild the shattered bonhomie between the communities and stop the violence.
“My government wants people to return to their homes at the earliest and start leading a normal life. This is not going to be easy and will take time but we have to provide them succour along with other essentials. The central forces will remain there till the situation is normalised,” he said.
Was SP desperate to consolidate its Muslim vote bank ahead of Lok Sabha elections? Were the state government’s actions one-sided?
“Sab ka nuksan hua hai (all communities have suffered) and they all are poor farmers. People have left their homes and the government is standing by the victims and not communities,” he said. “Kiske saath anyay hua (who has suffered), you all know. The government is with them. Even a journalist has lost his life.”
Asked if his government was equally responsible for Muzaffarnagar riots, he explained, “Two panchayats had passed off peacefully and they were holding the third panchayat. No one had any inkling that the situation would turn so ugly. Otherwise, if the government could ban chaurasi kosi parikrama in Ayodhya, it could have banned this panchayat too.”
On a possible intelligence failure, he said the state had taken action against officials and released the innocents. “We will not spare those who are behind the riots.”
Has he failed as CM?
“I will fail those who want me to fail. They want to tarnish my image and that of the state. I have consistently and diligently pursued the development agenda and would not deviate,” he said. “Even today when I am the target of all attacks, students met the Allahabad district magistrate demanding their laptops.”