Posted online: Wednesday, March 08, 2006 at 0211 hours IST
NEW DELHI, MARCH 7: The heat under the simmering communal and political cauldron of Uttar Pradesh was turned on after the blasts in the holy town of Varanasi this evening, triggering an angry ‘‘we-told-you-so’’ chorus from the RSS-BJP-VHP combine even as the Congress leadership—setting aside its antipathy for the Mulayam Singh government for the moment—pleaded for unity and calm.
A host of top political leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP chief Rajnath Singh, will be in Varanasi. Sonia and Home Minister Shivraj Patil were expected to reach late tonightThe BJP has already given a call for a Varanasi bandh while the VHP has gone a step further to call for a statewide bandh in UP. The BJP has also given notice to suspend Question Hour in Parliament tomorrow. On its agenda: the blasts and the alleged ‘‘competitive minorityism’’ that has encouraged ‘‘jehadi terrorism’’ to flourish, party leaders said.
The blasts, coming as they do against the backdrop of aggressive Muslim mobilisation across UP in recent days over the Danish cartoons and the Bush visit, has provided the Sangh Parivar ample ammunition to attack both the Central and UP governments.
While VHP’s Praveen Togadia described the terrorist attack as ‘‘a war against the Indian nation,’’ BJP leader V K Malhotra said it was a direct result of the ‘‘encouragement to Muslim fundamentalism’’ by the state and the Centre.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Leader of Opposition L K Advani said the ‘‘general atmosphere created in the past few days has only strengthened the fundamentalist forces’’ adding that he had told US President George Bush only last week that terrorism had far from abated in India.
But more important, Advani said, was the ‘‘general attitude of political parties’’ as evident in the ‘‘distressing spectacle in Lok Sabha yesterday when the UPA and its allies were vying with one another on who can promote minorityism more’’ on the issue of the Banerjee committee report. ‘‘I wish these political parties realised that no one is going to benefit from this votebank minorityism—neither the minorities themselves, nor the parties indulging in it, and certainly not the country.’’
While that was for the record, Sangh Parivar insiders view the latest development as an opportunity. Their calculation is that the BJP, which has declined considerably in UP over the last few years, would benefit from a communal polarisation in the state.
A similar polarisation in the early 1990s helped Hindutva forces transcend the differences of caste that lies at the root of UP’s politics of identity. The party has not been able to revive that ‘‘Hindu unity’’ since, but is now hoping that a replay of the ‘‘Mullah Mulayam’’ theme could work.
The Congress, which like the BJP had demanded the resignation of Mulayam Singh Yadav and President’s rule in UP following the recent Allahabad verdict on the defection of BSP MLAs, has decided to refrain from reiterating that demand just yet.
Echoing Sonia Gandhi’s appeal for ‘‘social harmony and peace’’, UPCC president Salman Khursheed told The Indian Express that ‘‘this is no time to point fingers at each other, this is a time to stand together and work together for peace.’’
Underlying his words was the fear of communal violence breaking out in Uttar Pradesh where the atmosphere has been tense for the past many days. The riots last week in Lucknow which left four dead and the long-simmering tension in eastern UP ever since BJP MLA from Ghazipur Krishnanand Rai was shot dead have only reinforced apprehensions of a flare-up stoked by mischievous elements in both communities.
While the Congress and Left parties are expected to back the Mulayam government in this hour of crisis, a more sober review of the latest manifestation of ‘‘Muslim rage’’ could also be on the cards.
The UPA government and its allies are beginning to harbour misgivings about the manner in which Muslim rage is being manufactured on the streets through such calls as the one issued by UP minister Yakub Qureishi to kill the Danish cartoonist.
Such rash acts, they feel, not only provide a plank for the revival of Hindutva but also harm the interests of millions of ordinary Muslims who were beginning to feel more secure after the exit of the BJP-led NDA from power. Today’s blasts could well provide a starting point for a debate on how to protect the legitimate interests of minorities without pandering to the more aggressive and extremist elements among them.