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Mulayam faces riot camp fire

Lucknow, Dec. 24: The blame game over the Muzaffarnagar riot relief camps intensified today after Mulayam Singh Yadav drew fire for allegedly saying “BJP and Congress supporters had been implanted” there “to keep the issue burning”.

Rivals and clerics alike slammed the comments, made at an event of the ruling Samajwadi Party yesterday. The remarks were meant to hit back at Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the condition at the camps but left Mulayam facing a firestorm of protests.

“I tell you there is not even one (riot victim in the camps). You can check. These people are conspirators. The BJP and the Congress have colluded in this. They were implanted there by both parties. They have been asked to stay there at night and sit on dharnas during the day. The original riot victims have all gone home,” Mulayam had said at an event to mark former Prime Minister and farm leader Charan Singh’s birth anniversary. Singh traced his roots to the region.

Mulayam’s comments came a day after Rahul urged the administration to concentrate on improving the facilities amid alleged deaths of children. But Rahul’s remarks embarrassed the Samajwadis and Mulayam, who extend support to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

Today, senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Mulayam’s comments amounted to “rubbing salt” into the wounds of the riot- affected.

Senior state Congress leader Pradeep Mathur said the Samajwadi chief was trying to divert attention from the “failure of his son’s government” and asked him to tour the camps. “He should visit relief camps to find out for himself before making comments.”

Minority community leaders also reacted angrily. Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali, a senior cleric in Lucknow, said the riot victims deserved not “more insults” but more relief.

Jamiat leader Mehmood Madani accused the Samajwadis of “trying to hide their incompetence” and Mulayam of “betraying political desperation” by making such statements.

A delegation led by Jamiat chief Maulana Arshad Madni had met chief minister Akhilesh Yadav last month seeking permission to build 100 houses for riot victims, sources said.

For Akhilesh, the controversy over his father’s comments erupted at an awkward moment — hours before the chief minister met CPM general secretary Prakash Karat this afternoon.

Ironically, Karat wanted to discuss the plight of the riot victims and submitted a list of suggestions to improve the condition of the camps.

But Akhilesh later defended his government and said an “unnecessary controversy” was being created over the shelters. “We have done whatever was possible but what can a government do if the affected do not want to return home. An unnecessary controversy is being created.”