Killing to influence UP election results
C L MANOJ AND SUDESH K VERMA
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
NEW DELHI, July 25. - The "utility" of Ms Phoolan Devi in the caste-driven and explosive political fields of Uttar Pradesh will not end with her violent death. The "Bandit Queen" is bound to be resurrected in the run-up to the crucial Assembly elections.
For the politicians, addicted to caste-combinations and conspiracy theories, there could not have been a better symbolism than Phoolan, the legendary victim and tormentor of upper-caste males, being shot dead when a thakur, Mr Rajnath Singh is ruling UP. The coincidence that she was murdered in the neighbourhood of Mr Singh's official residence in New Delhi could be used to add to the symbolism.
Though none has so far any clue about the reasons behind her murder, by evening, there was a determined effort to turn the tables on the BJP and its government in Lucknow. Soon after Mr LK Advani formally informed the Lok Sabha about the incident, a grim-looking Mr Mulayam Singh warned: "These formalities of paying tributes are fine. But there are things to be discussed between us and in the House."
Outside Parliament, Mr Yadav's spokesman, Mr Amar Singh, didn't wait for the "formalities." "The BJP is behind Phoolan's death. Mr Rajnath Singh had downgraded her security to just one constable a month ago despite the fact that she was a threatened person. Phoolan is the first victim of a conspiracy hatched by the Rajnath Singh Government to physically eliminate the Samajwadi Party leaders," he alleged.
Tomorrow the SP is bound to target the home minister and the BJP-led government in Lucknow Given the emotive and political explosiveness of the charge, the allegation, at least for the time being, has put the BJP in the defensive. "It's unfair to level political charges at this tragic moment, yet if there is a need there could be a probe," said the BJP spokesman, Mr Vijay Kumar Malhotra.
He refuted the charge that withdrawal of security led to her death. "Security is withdrawn according to the threat perception of individuals assessed by the home ministry," he said.
By late evening Mr Amar Singh intensified the attack saying the Rajnath Singh government had downgraded the security of all the SP leaders including Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, his son, brother, himself and leaders like Mr Sakshi Maharaj who defected fom the BJP. "Take it from me, Mr Azam Khan (a prominent Muslim leader of SP) will be the next victim. We will not take it lightly, we will go to the people," he said.
The attempts of the SP to take Ms Phoolan Devi's body to her Mirzapur constituency for cremation could be seen as a clear signal of taking the Phoolan plank to the centre of the political battle.
Observers feel the death of Phoolan, belonging to the most-backward Malla caste, now agitating for special reservation, could be used by the SP leadership to attract other OBCs to its Yadav-Muslim combination.
By roping in Mr Ajit Singh, a Jat, the BJP was trying to make some inroads into the OBC territory. On the other hand, for the BJP, which lost the influential OBC Lodh community following the ouster of Mr Kalyan Singh, the death of Phoolan could further alienate these sections, already uneasy under the Thakur regime.
However, the over-play of the Phoolan factor, some others feel, could also help the BJP in bringing the upper-castes, Thakurs and Brahmins, closer.
In the days to come, many fear, there could be calls for revenge from both sides - in a state that is already facing serious law and order problems.