Congress banks on healing touch for riot-hit

Healing touch is the Congress mantra for victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots, even as it intensified its attack on the beleaguered Samajwadi Party (SP) government for its failure to control the communal disturbances.

Congress leaders also warned that Uttar Pradesh could see more such incidents as the BJP has given the charge of the state to Amit Shah, controversial close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the riot-hit areas in the Muzaffarnagar district on Monday. Singh made brief comments to the media on the visit, and later the three leaders spent time interacting with the victims, trying to share their pain and assuring them of their security.

All India Congress Committee general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, who is in charge of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh, said the Congress plans to get involved in the relief work as several homes have been destroyed in the communal riots. “We have to assure them of their security and well being, and this would be our first job in those areas,” he said.

The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that nearly 42,000 people have been displaced due to riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.

The Congress had won 22 of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, and wants to at least retain that number in the poll next year. The party senses an opportunity to reach out to voters in this communally divided region by giving a healing touch to the affected.

However, a key challenge before the party would be mobilising workers in the state, where its organisation is not it ship-shape.

It could seek solace in the fact that while Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had to face angry people during his visit to Muzaffarnagar on Sunday, the Congress leaders were greeted with slogans that hailed them on Monday.

Mistry also sharpened the attack on the SP and BJP, accusing the two parties of being hand-in-glove when it came to stoking communal passions to polarise voters.

“The SP and BJP are colluding to repeat the Gujarat model of riots in Uttar Pradesh,” he said, pointing out that the UP government, like Modi in 2002, was yet to take timely action to control the communal disturbances.

The Congress can afford to criticise the SP, the key outside supporter to the UPA government, as it no longer needs its support in Parliament, which would convene for the winter session some time in November. It would practically be the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha, with Parliament convening in February to have a Vote on Account.

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