Ayodhya verdict: Anxious moments for all parties

For politicians in UP, this could easily be the most hectic time in last 18 years. As judgment day inches closer, there is much to do — secret rendezvous with ulema, dharmacharyas and assorted pressure groups to daily marathon meetings in party offices to chart out the next course of action. Meanwhile, time is running out.

The anxiety is proving to be highly contagious. The Ayodhya issue, which drastically altered the political landscape, may have lost the bulk of the potency it once had, but it can still generate passions enough to topple the issue of skyrocketing prices as the foremost concern.

As the mandir/masjid dispute is debated across the country’s largest state, political parties are having to redo their maths. As it is, the political scenario in UP has turned hazy. Election-2012 defies easy prediction. BJP is gasping for breath. Congress shows signs of revival but is still far away from the goal post. SP, discredited three years ago, is groping to gain a foothold and BSP, though firmly in the saddle, is under pressure to retain the slot that everyone else is eying. The brewing crisis could well be CM Mayawati’s litmus test, the very opportunity to prove her commitment of promised “bhaymukta samaj” (society free from fear).

The clampdown on Varun Gandhi’s outbursts against minorities during the last Lok Sabha polls won her many an admirer in western UP’s thickly-populated Muslim belt. By announcing a new compensation policy for land acquisition recently, she took the sting out of farmers’ agitation against the Yamuna Expressway and zapped all opponents.

Handling the verdict, however, could prove a lot more dicey. The BSP supremo won’t like to upset her winning combination of Dalit, Brahmin and Muslim. She has in her kitty the highest number of Muslim and Brahmin MLAs — 29 and 43, respectively. Support from both played the most crucial role in helping BSP bag 59 reserved constituencies in the 2007 assembly election. Therefore, the Ayodhya issue, a proverbial walk on the razor’s edge, may need more than her administrative acumen.

Congress seems to have already made up its mind. The guideline was issued unofficially by Rahul Gandhi himself during the last parliamentary election when in a stinging indictment of former PM Narasimha Rao, he declared that the Babri Masjid would not have been demolished if one of the Gandhis was in the saddle.

This was his way of distancing himself from an issue which eroded the formidable following that Congress once had among Muslims. Given that the party’s comeback calculations are premised on the return of Muslims to the fold, Congress must be wary of the fallout of the verdict. So state president Rita Bahuguna Joshi admits to be “worried about the mischievous role certain communal forces are gearing to play in a bid to whip up frenzy”.

The Congress’s graph had plummeted from 309 seats in the assembly in 1980 to 46 in 1992. Left with only 22 MLAs now, Congress needs to catch up fast to make its Mission-2012 pipe dream a reality. Wooing Muslims back en masse from SP could be the answer.

SP, officially launched by Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1992, has never made any secret of its pro-minority stance. Mulayam owes his three innings as CM to a Yadav-Muslim combination till 2007 proved him wrong. The wounds of the 2007 debacle are still fresh and so is the feeling of embarrassment Yadav faced after clasping the Babri culprit Kalyan Singh to his bosom, however briefly, in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

On a penance trip, his men made history in Rajya Sabha by raising “Ya-Ali” chant to counter BJP’s “Jai Shriram” last year. But for now, the party is ready to do its bit for maintaining communal amity. “We want peace above everything and advise caution and restraint to both parties,” says party veteran Ambika Chaudhary. The SP youth wing has been “asked to help out Muslim students in case of a backlash”, claimed Abhishek Singh, its vice-president.

As their nervous rivals bite their nails, the saffron brigade seems unruffled in its belief that the verdict either way would provide a booster shot to the critically ailing unit. Riding the Ram wave, BJP wrested 221 seats in the 1991 elections and hit a dismal 51 in 2007 for failing to deliver. So here comes another Ram-sent opportunity to encash; that too at a time when upper castes are drifting back to their original political home, Congress.

The wary optimism in the party is palpable though senior leaders — Vinay Katiyar or state president SP Shahi — carefully stick to platitudes like “honouring the court’s verdict”.

source: Ayodhya verdict: Anxious moments for all parties – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Ayodhya-verdict-Anxious-moments-for-all-parties/articleshow/6647900.cms#ixzz10tnrdgJC

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