Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav has suddenly woken up to the fact that he needs Hindu votes to return to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
He also seems to have realised that his own Yadavs are turning Hindus first and he needs to urgently stop the erosion in his base vote bank.
Yadav’s statement this week—more than 25 years after the incident—expressing regret for ordering firing on kar sevaks in Ayodhya in October 1990, is part of his strategy to assuage the feelings of Hindus and also blunt his pro-Muslim image.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, in the past two and a half decades, has always prided himself on his role in protecting the Babri mosque and has even defended his decision to order firing on kar sevaks.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, popularly known as “Mullah Mulayam” in the 1990s for his Ayodhya decision, has now shown a clear shift in stand and this is also being reflected in the decisions taken by the UP government.
There is a conscious move on the part of the Samajwadi Party to tone down its pro-Muslim image and cultivate a Hindu-friendly one.
“Our aggressive pro-Muslim image has cost us dear in the last Lok Sabah elections when our biggest vote bank — Yadavs — turned Hindus with a vengeance. The BJP has been continuing quietly with its ‘Hindus First’ campaign and to counter this, we have to take pro-Hindu decisions”, admitted a senior UP minister.
Though the Samajwadi Party won the majority of the Assembly byelections and the panchayat elections held after the Lok Sabha election last year, the party is still unsure of Yadav support in the Assembly elections where the BJP will, again, be its biggest challenger.
To begin with, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has drawn up a massive development plan for three pilgrim cities — Varanasi, Ayodhya and Vrindavan in Mathura. The state government is working up a plan to develop tourist infrastructure in these cities which includes upgrading UP tourism hotels, building roads and regulating pilgrimage.
The state government also plans to take over the famous Bankey Bihari temple in Vrindavan and the Vindhyachal Devi temple in Mirzapur and develop the area.
Ropeways are also planned for the Ashtabhuja temple in Mirzapur and the Goverdhan in Mathura.
The Akhilesh government has also launched the “Samajwadi Shravan Yatra” under which senior citizens are taken on a fully sponsored and guided tour of pilgrimage centres by special trains. The yatra has been taken to Haridwar, Ajmer Sharief- Pushkar and now Rameshwaram.
The state government has also announced subsidies for the Kailash Mansarover and Sindhu Yatra and has given 50 acres of land in Mathura for a Krishna theme park.
“We do not want — at any cost — to lose our Yadav votes to the BJP which will be playing the Hindu card in the Assembly elections. We want to project ourselves as a broad-based government that caters to the religious sentiments of all. If we are fiercely protective about Muslim interests, we are also committed to developing Hindu shrines and encouraging religious tourism”, the minister explained.