Mulayam in vote bank cleft stick

Just when the entire country was rejoicing the hanging of the Mumbai terror attacks convict Ajmal Amir Kasab, the Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh was making quiet moves to withdraw cases against the accused persons in the terror strikes across the state in 2006 and 2007.

The move by the government has invited the wrath of the court, political parties as well as social activists, who have termed it as “nothing but vote bank politics” though the the ruling party has vehemently denied any political motive behind it.

The Allahabad high court’s stinging criticism of the move forced the government on the back foot. The court lambasted the government for making attempts to withdraw the terror charges.

“Who will decide if someone is a terrorist...when the matter is before the court then let it decide who a terrorist is...is the government encouraging terrorism by taking initiatives to free them?,” the court observed while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the move.

“Today you will release the terrorists...tomorrow you may honor them with Padmabhushan,” the court sarcastically remarked.

Government's move

Two social activists from Varanasi had filed a PIL in the high court challenging the UP government's move to withdraw cases on the accused persons in four terror attacks in Uttar Pradesh in 2006 and 2007. The PIL contended that the move was fraught with danger and would encourage terrorism in the country. The court has asked the state government to furnish the reasons that prompted it to move for withdrawing the cases.

The desperation of the SP to see the cases withdrawn comes in the wake of sustained demand from a section of the Muslim leaders, who are reminding the Akhilesh Singh government about the party’s assurances given during the recent Assembly polls.

The SP had, during the run up to the elections promised that it would take steps to ensure release of Muslim youth, who had been languishing in jails on ‘false terror charges.’

Muslim organisations have been exerting pressure on the government to fulfill its promise. At a recently held meeting in Lucknow leaders from the community charged the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav with “not honouring his promise to get all innocent Muslim youths, who had been arrested by the security agencies released” once his party formed the government in the state.

“Not only has he not kept his promise but the state government arrested three more Muslim youths after coming to power,” convener of the ‘forum for the release of innocents imprisoned in the name of terrorism,’ Mohammad Shuaib told Deccan Herald.

“The UP government has taken steps to withdraw criminal cases slapped against SP workers and leaders during the previous regime but it has done nothing to get the innocent Muslim youths released from the jail,” Shuaib said.

In the last polls, the SP had attacked the Congress for its ‘double standards’ on the Batla House encounter in Delhi in 2008 after Congress leader Digvijay Singh had termed it as ‘fake.’ The resentment against the Congress had cost it dear in the polls.

Post Kasab hanging, things have become more difficult for the SP regime. The officials as well as the SP leaders now admit that the government may find it difficult to press for the release of the accused by withdrawing terror cases against them in view of the prevailing public mood after Kasab hanging. “There may be a backlash,” said a senior SP leader and a minister.

Recurring communal violence in the state after the SP assumed the office have also dented the image of the party among the Muslims with at least one senior Muslim SP leader openly criticizing Akhilesh Yadav's handling of the riots and saying that the Muslims were not safe in UP.

Also the charge of betrayal against Mulayam has come at a time when the Akhilesh Yadav government has been making all efforts to woo the Muslim community and is leaving no stone unturned to appease it. “We will expose the true face of the SP leadership if it did not get the innocents Muslims released from the jails,” Shuaib said.

Muslims, who constitute around 20 per cent of the state's electorate, play a decisive role in around 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state.They will be key to any Mulayam plan to nurture bigger dreams at the Centre post 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

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