The Azam Khan episode at the Boston Logan airport in the United States has come in handy for the Samajwadi Party to spew venom on Uncle Sam. But its charge that external affairs minister Salman Khurshid had a hand in the UP minister’s detention is both outlandish and unbelievable.
In so alleging, the SP leadership has betrayed anxiety over its loosening grip over the Muslim vote. It’s desperate to withdraw support to the UPA but is unable to find an issue potent enough to attract electoral dividends.
The recurring communal violence in UP and its impact on the minority community - that contributed handsomely to its landslide win in the assembly polls - is a cause for deep worry for Mulayam Singh and his son Akhilesh. As chief minister, the junior Yadav has failed thus far to realize the hopes inspired by his elevation to the key office.
Khan was not the first Indian leader to be questioned and frisked at a US airport. But the UP CM responded disproportionately to the incident, cancelling a speech (on the Kumbh Mela management) at Harvard University besides scrapping a reception in his honour by the Indian Consulate in New York.
The posturing, bordering on the extreme, confirmed the widely shared view that his party will seek to pull the rug from under the UPA’s feet on an issue concerning Muslims. That alone can re-establish the SP’s hold on the minority vote bank the Congress hopes to corner if the BJP makes Narendra Modi its prime ministerial candidate.
The strategy resting on the minority plank will also absolve Mulayam of the charge of playing into the hands of the BJP in dislodging a perceived “secular” regime at the Centre. The objective is no different when he distinguishes between China and Pakistan to show the Dragon as the bigger threat to India.
On the face of it, the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati is the biggest stumbling block in the elder Yadav’s game plan. But the SP chief knows that he cannot force elections without a broad consensus among non-BJP, non-Congress parties.
Currently, a consensus of that nature seems elusive, if not impossible, what with the Left short of being sure-footed in West Bengal and smaller outfits such as the Telugu Desam in a limbo in Andhra. Even Trinamool’s Mamata’s saddled with a Ponzi problem she’d have problems living down in an immediate electoral contest.