The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mayavati does a Mulayam

Lucknow, Nov. 5: “They are criminals,” asserts Mayavati, justifying the imprisonment of dissidents Raghuraj Pratap Singh and Dhananjay Singh. The duo is in Tafethgarh jail, 200 km away from Lucknow.

Sometime ago, rival Mulayam Singh Yadav was saying the same thing when he accused the Mayavati government of harbouring criminals.

Raghuraj Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya and Dhananjay have turned villains for Mayavati overnight after they switched sides. Old cases were dug out and they have been charged with kidnapping on the complaint of BJP MLA Pooran Singh Bundela.

Bundela himself was among the BJP dissidents against whom the Mayavati government had struck after they called on the Governor to express their lack of faith in the government. An old case under the Forest Act was revived against him.

Mukhkar Ansar, an Independent MLA with a criminal past, had earlier left the BSP to win the election on his own despite Mayavati’s open opposition. He was in jail, with an order under the National Security Act, and was brought to the Assembly in police custody for his belated swearing-in only after the high court intervened. Today he is a free man after reaffirming his faith in Mayavati.

Congress MLA Akhilesh Pratap Singh was expelled from the party following the murder of a colleague in Sultanpur. He was put behind bars and served detention under the National Security Act. With Mayavati in trouble and Singh willing to bail her out, the NSA order against him has been revoked.

“We should give even people with criminal background a chance to reform,” is Mayavati’s argument in support of her government’s decision.

“Muscle and money power have always played an important role in change of governments during the turbulent 90s,” says Ramesh Dixit, a political scientist from Lucknow University. “But Mayavati seems to have perfected the use of police power to serve her political ends.”

She seems to be succeeding, even if temporarily. Bundela’s return to her camp after the threat of action in an old case under the Forest Act proves the point.

Awadh Pal Singh Yadav, another rebel BJP legislator against whom a police case was registered following the rebellion, has also been tamed. He met BJP state chief Vinay Katiyar last Saturday and apologised.

Dissident leaders Ganga Bhakt Singh and Ramashees Rai maintain that these tactics will not bail out Mayavati in the long run. But the developments have given them food for thought before they meet tomorrow to work out their future course after a self-imposed two-day Diwali truce.

While the Mayavati police has shown extraordinary zeal in digging out old cases against her opponents, BJP MP Brij Bhooshan Singh continues to evade arrest. Warrants issued for his arrest by a Lucknow court six months ago in connection with kidnapping of a Kanpur industrialist are yet to be served.

Mayavati’s tactics have left Mulayam flustered. But charges of misuse of government machinery are likely to have little impact on people, political observers feel.

Mulayam himself was accused of using similar tactics when the BSP withdrew support to the coalition led by him in 1995. The infamous state guesthouse case, in which Mulayam and others were accused of kidnapping and intimidation against Mayavati and her supporters, is still pending in the court.

“There is no party in Uttar Pradesh which does not welcome powerful men who can win their seats by capitalising on their criminal past,” points out sociologist K.K. Sharma. “Since they have become a part of the polity, one group’s ‘criminal’ is its rival’s saviour,” he adds.

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