When the Samajwadi Party won the state assembly elections in 2012 by a landslide majority, even Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati acknowledged the fact that her party lost the elections because the Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh did not vote for her and chose the Samajwadi Party instead.
The Samajwadi Party has always had a strong Muslim base in UP- primarily due to the presence of strong leaders like Azam Khan, and the party’s role in stopping the attacks on Babri Masjid in the early 90s, earning its leader Mulayam Singh Yadav the epithet of Maulana Mulayam.
Since then the party has been very close to the Muslim community in the state, and has always cold-shouldered communal forces and parties like the BJP. These things have further endeared the SP to the Muslims in Uttar Pradesh.
When Akhilesh Yadav was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, many believed this to be a crucial step in the evolution of the Samajwadi Party and improve its maligned image as the ‘Gunda Raj Party’. Akhilesh Yadav came to power on his motto of good governance.
However, since coming to power, Akhilesh Yadav seems to have lost his steam as more than a hundred communal/sectarian riots have taken place in the state under his watch. He himself admitted in March last year that as many as 27 incidents of communal violence had occurred in UP since his party came to power.
Then the disaster of Muzaffarnagar happened, where the Akhilesh Yadav government failed to handle even the aftermath of the gruesome riots that killed 60 people and drove another 50,000 homeless. Mulayam Singh Yadav called the people in relief camps as activists from other parties. A bureaucrat in the SP government dismissed the deaths of children saying, “No one really dies from the cold”. This insensitivity was further aggravated when the party spent crores of rupees in organizing the Saifai Mahotsav when the displaced riot victims were dying of the bitter winter cold.
Even the capital city of Lucknow has witnessed a few sectarian clashes between the Shias and Sunnis in the last two years, where lives were lost and property worth lakhs was destroyed. The administration failed to tackle the violence, exposing yet another serious lapse in Yadav’s performance as the leader of the state and its Muslim residents.
It is clear that communal tension has been simmering in the state, but the fatal blow was the SP government’s decision to not do anything about it and ignore it. In the riots that ensued in Western UP, the ruling SP government has been accused of not doing enough to stop the violence from escalating, despite the fact that there were early warnings of the violence escalating.
The Supreme Court recently came out with a report saying that the UP government failed to protect the fundamental rights of the people in Muzaffarnagar, and the court blamed the SP government for negligence. Reacting to this, Mulayam Singh Yadav took the blame but maintained that his party’s resolve to fight and defeat communal forces from coming to power remains as strong as ever.
The most controversial case to come to light was the killing of a police officer- the DSP of Kunda, Zia-ul-Haq- where allegations were leveled against SP’s cabinet minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh, alias Raja Bhaiyya. The minister was shockingly acquitted, and justice for Zia-ul-Haq’s murder is yet to be delivered.
The Muslims who have shown their unflinching support to Maulana Mulayam increasingly feel betrayed by the Samajwadi Party, even though party has the support of a powerful Muslim face in the form of Azam Khan. The many failures of the SP government in UP has dismayed the Muslims of the state, and the party faces a bitter test in the Muslim dominated constituencies.
The author, Uzair Hasan Rizvi, is a journalism student at Jamia Millia Islamia. He tweets at @rizviuzair