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Shah advises UP caution

New Delhi, June 2: Amit Shah has counselled his BJP colleagues, especially those in Uttar Pradesh, to step cautiously on the volatile terrain of Badaun where two cousins were raped and hanged while the cops looked the other way, said party sources.

The message from the general secretary in charge of the state is that while the BJP is free to protest and corner the Samajwadi Party government, it should stop clamouring for its dismissal.

The episode prodded several political leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, central minister and Lok Janshakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati to visit the town and declare that “law and order” had “collapsed irretrievably”. Mayawati has demanded that the governor recommend central rule.

No central minister, Maneka Gandhi, barring has spoken a word. Only, the Union home ministry has written a letter to the state government seeking answers to a series of queries, including why the SC/ST Act was not invoked against the alleged rapists and killers.

Maneka, the women and child development minister and a state MP, has said setting up rape crisis centres was her priority.

In Lucknow, the state BJP’s women’s wing demonstrated outside chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s office and faced water cannons. There were reports that the Uttar Pradesh party leaders had urged the Centre to dismiss the government but were promptly turned down by central bosses.

Shah allowed the state leaders to protest but reportedly warned that any insinuation the Akhilesh government could be brought down and the state placed under President’s rule, would be “counter-productive”.

A BJP source said even a hint that the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre planned to “tinker” with the Uttar Pradesh government would be fraught with “undesirable” implications because of the Prime Minister’s iterations that he was committed to upholding the polity’s federal structure in letter and spirit.

Second, the source stressed that the S.R. Bommai versus Union of India judgment, pronounced by a full-bench of the Supreme Court in March 1994, laid down the conditions and mechanisms for dismissing state governments.

The judgment stated that the “proper course for testing the strength of the ministry (a government) is holding the test on the floor of the House” and was “not a matter of private opinion of any individual be he the Governor or the President”.

State elections are due in 2017. The Samajwadi Party has an overwhelming majority. So far, there is not a whiff of internal dissent or rebellion, despite the Samajwadi’s exceptionally poor showing in the recent Lok Sabha election in which it won only five of the 80 seats.

“Our government has three years to go. After our rout, nobody wishes to destabilise it. We will probably just bide time. But if things get excessively uncomfortable, we will give wake-up calls to our bosses,” said a young Samajwadi candidate who lost.

There was another reason for the BJP’s caution. The Samajwadi’s nine members in the Rajya Sabha could work as an insurance against fending off close shaves for the government, sources said.

Notwithstanding its own sweep, the BJP was down to only 47 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh legislature in which the Samajwadi has 224 members, followed by the BSP’s 80. The Congress has 28 and its ally, Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, nine MLAs.

Shah’s view is the state BJP should continue its campaign against the Samajwadi government whenever there is a Badaun repeat.

“Let this government lose its legitimacy before the people. We have to ensure that our organisation is robust and in a position to take full advantage of the anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav. We must not yield the opposition space to the BSP or the Congress,” a source said.

Sources said Shah emphasised to the state leaders that they must not conclude that the 73 Lok Sabha seats (71 to the BJP and two its ally, the Apna Dal) would translate into a 300-seat win in the Assembly election.

“His message was that the dynamics of the state polls would be different from those that prevailed in the Lok Sabha election. The BSP could be a formidable contender. Even the Samajwadi might not be a complete write-off. Therefore, he stressed that we have to project ourselves as the strongest Opposition by unrelentingly fighting on the ground,” the source said.