After the two-day National Executive of the party in Allahabad on June 12 and 13, is the BJP viewing Kairana as an opportunity for polarisation in next year’s assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh akin to what the communal frenzy in Muzaffarnagar did in the 2014 general elections? The BJP managed to win a mind boggling 71 seats out of the total 80 seats in the Lok Sabha from the country’s most populous state. With its allies winning two, the NDA finished with a record tally of 73 which catapulted them to power at the centre with a majority of 282 seats on its own and along with its allies the NDA crossed the rubicon of 300 and finished with a comfortable 340 in the 543-member House of the People.
It might be too early to make those assumptions at this juncture as the assembly elections are still about eight months away. The question is will Kairana do the trick for BJP in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. Even though it is a dangerous game, the gambit is clearly to keep the Kairana issue alive to influence the electorate. The alleged exodus of Hindu families from Kairana has given the saffron brigade a handle to indulge in divisive politics in the run up to the most crucial assembly elections in UP.
It is now beyond the shadow of reasonable doubt that BJP MP Hukum Singh representing Kairana in Western UP and neighbouring Kandhla district in Shamli let his imagination go wild. The MP allegedly released a list of 350 odd families from Muslim dominated Kairana township polarising of Hindus having been compelled to bolt from there. However, many of those who figured in the list were either still in residence or had left much earlier in search of better prospects. There is evidence that many of those who moved out of Kairana and Kandhla did so not because of communalism but crime.
Both towns are in the grip of powerful and violent criminal gangs which have had a free run of the area. Fact finding teams irrespective of their political affiliation, have been to that region under the threat of such groups, particuarly one run by Kukem Kala engaged in extortion. After the MP’s list was found to be mischievous exaggeration, Hukum Singh himself backtracked claiming that the migration was essentially a law and order problem. The lie of Kairana exodus exacerbated social tensions in the region which is yet to recover from the communal carnage of 2013.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has exhorted the BJP rank and file at the party’s Naational Executive to focus on development, others in the party want to exploit Kairana as a campaign plank. Senior police officers posted in Western UP admit that though some of the Hindu families in Kairana had decided to migrate from the area, their decision was guided more by deterioration of law and order than any other reason.
For several years UP has been witnessing some of the worst communal clashes. Unchecked crime affects business and working communities in UP’s mofussil towns has long been associated with Samajwadi party rule. The Akhilesh Yadav government has done little to change this perception. The larger anxiety remains. In regions with mixed populations, the consequences of painting a largely crime related phenomenon with a broad communal brush has the portends of lethal consequences.
The BJP remains unrelenting from its position of a “”Hindu exodus”” and is now projecting the Kairana issue as a forced migration of residents due to fear induced by the police appeasement of criminals belonging to the minority community. The BJP team which visited Kairana has submitted its report to UP BJP president Keshav Prasad Maurya on Thursday. The report will be handed over to BJP president Amit Shah to be submitted to UP Governor Ram Naik. Maurya said the party was preparing a road map to further intensify the issue across the state. What is scary is that BJP activists are looking for more Kairanas in the state.
In its preliminary report submitted to the government, the district administration has listed lack of industries and health and educational centres in Kairana as the reason for economic migration. Reports suggest that along with Hindus, Muslims have also migrated from Kairana in search of jobs. Kairana is not very far from Muzaffarnagar. Historically it has been Muslim dominated.
Meanwhile, BSP supremo and former UP chief minister Mayawati put up a brave front when a heavyweight and and backward castes leader Swami Prasad Maurya quit the party as he felt “”suffocated”” in it. He accused Mayawati with auctioning party tickets for the upcoming polls. He is also the leader of the opposition in the UP assembly. There is speculation that he might join the Samajwadi party.
Expectedly, Mayawati lashed out at Maurya saying she would have expelled him anyway from her party. She said he wanted tickets for his son and daughter for contesting the assembly elections. There are bound to be some queer twists and turns in the run up to the elections as BJP would like break the common refrain that it essentially a party of upper castes. It is in this context that the Lotus party wants to make a determined pitch for the support of the backward castes. That is why it has chosen a backward caste leader in Maurya as the BJP chief in Uttar Pradesh.
This town which has a history of amity between the Hindus and Muslims, Kairana is known for its Hindustani classical music. It is the birthplace of the Kairana Gharana whose practioners include Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Begum Akhtar, Gangubhai Hangal, Roshan Ara Begum among several others.
(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. Views are personal.)