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Ear on phone, voice of reason

Bhopal, Oct. 15: Mulayam Singh Yadav hates to have his mobile phone ring out when addressing public meetings, but the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had to use his “chhota phone” a number of times today in the Madhya Pradesh capital.

Mulayam Singh was flooded with calls informing him of VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore’s arrest in Lucknow as well as the situation in major Uttar Pradesh towns.

The chief minister’s instructions to the callers were crisp: Be firm. Do not let anyone, whoever he might be, violate the law.

But when Mulayam Singh spoke here, he was uncharacteristically restrained. The chief minister appealed to the VHP and “others” to call off Friday’s Ayodhya programme and wait for the court verdict on the disputed site.

He praised Muslims for having said they will abide by the court ruling, even if it goes against them. “I expect the same commitment from them (the Sangh parivar). After all, a nation and society is governed by laws and norms,” Mulayam Singh said, rejecting the VHP’s argument that the judiciary had no role to play in matters of faith.

Launching his Samajwadi Party’s political campaign here, the chief minister urged the Sangh parivar to “see reason”. He asked if constructing a temple was more important than nation-building and economic development. “If we have peace, harmony and prosperity in society, we can built thousands of temples and mosques. But let us first have that kind of conducive atmosphere,” Mulayam Singh said.

The chief minister said India was passing through “difficult times” as the borders were tense and “external forces” were undermining its economic sovereignty. At such a juncture, raking up the Ayodhya dispute was “adverse to national interest”, he said.

Mulayam Singh said riots, looting and killings were against civilised norms and helped no one.

“If we see past riots, we would realise that both sides (Hindus and Muslims) pay (an) enormous economic price apart from losing precious human lives,” he added.

Mulayam Singh said Ayodhya had witnessed bloodshed in 1990 and 1992. As chief minister in 1990, he had ordered police to fire on kar sevaks trying to climb atop the Babri masjid; two years later, the demolition of the mosque sparked countrywide riots.

But the chief minister refrained from talking tough against the Parivar and making threats.

Instead, Mulayam Singh targeted the Congress which supports its government, holding it responsible for all ills, including the Ayodhya dispute. “Do not forget that it (the Congress) got the disputed shrine unlocked. The masjid fell when there was a Congress regime at the Centre.”

The chief minister said coalition governments are necessary at the Centre and in states. “Our experience with single party rule has not been good. Look at the Congress. It ruled the nation for 45 years and look at the magnitude of the problems,” he said.

Mulayam Singh said coalition governments respond to peoples’ problems better and provide greater choice to the electorate.

Some Madhya Pradesh leaders, including Independent MLA Sunilam, joined the Samajwadi. Mulayam Singh’s party also netted a rebel Congress leader, Arif Masood, who has been expelled from his party. Masood has emerged as a strong contender for the North Bhopal seat currently held by Congress minister Arif Aqueel.

The Samajwadi has some pockets of influence in the state in areas bordering Uttar Pradesh.

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