Sept. 21: BJP president Rajnath Singh cried off a planned trip to Muzaffarnagar today, saying the administration had “denied” him permission to visit the violence-hit west Uttar Pradesh district.
The decision came on a day Uttar Pradesh police arrested two legislators in connection with the flare-up, including a BJP MLA who had slipped away from under their noses earlier this week.
Rajnath, who was to reach the violence zone by helicopter this morning, said he had wanted to meet the families of the victims and to take stock of the situation. “But the district administration denied me permission. I condemn its approach. I was going there to apply balm on the wounds and not to foment tension,” he told reporters in Delhi.
BJP sources said Rajnath apparently decided not to kick up a shindy over his aborted trip in keeping with the party’s strategy to allow local and state leaders to ramp up protests against the Samajwadi Party-led government and let the brass conduct itself “responsibly” in the public domain.
Rajnath, too, appeared to confirm this approach. The Lok Sabha MP from Ghaziabad said he would have been accused of “fomenting tension” had he “defied” the district administration’s order and gone ahead with his trip.
Rajnath had a long sitting on Friday night with Narendra Modi and RSS joint general secretary Suresh Soni, who liaises with the BJP, mainly to discuss the political fallout of the violence and the electoral implications for the party.
Notwithstanding demands for a visit by Modi, the BJP has decided not to schedule a meeting in Muzaffarnagar or an adjoining town when its 2014 mascot embarks on his Uttar Pradesh foray next month. The sources claimed Modi didn’t want his “focus on governance and development” to get “distracted” by the secular-communal debate.
At the same time, the BJP leadership ensured that its “star” MLA, Sangeet Som, courted arrest in Meerut today amid high drama that saw his supporters try to whisk him away before he “offered” himself to the cops.
“I am a law-abiding citizen and, therefore, I am giving (myself) up to the police,” Som told reporters.
BSP MLA Noor Saleem, accused of making provocative speeches, was arrested from Muzaffarnagar. Yesterday, BJP MLA Suresh Rana was arrested in Lucknow.
Som was one of the three BJP MLAs who had on Wednesday given police the slip within minutes of emerging from the Assembly and melting into a crowd of supporters, before speeding away in a car with party leader Uma Bharti.
The MLA is being held primarily responsible for sparking off the trouble by allegedly distributing inflammatory CDs, a charge he has denied.
Rajnath said he would dispatch a “fact-finding” team of BJP MLAs, led by legislature party leader Hukkum Singh, to prepare a report. The BJP plans to submit the document to President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow.
Hukkum Singh, also named in an FIR for stoking trouble in Muzaffarnagar, was among the three legislators Uma had whisked away.
Telugu Desam Party leader N. Chandrababu Naidu called on Rajnath this evening to brief him about the impasse over Telangana and sought the BJP’s support to pressure the Centre for an early resolution.