Why ‘Mullah Mulayam’ tag didn’t hurt | India News indiabusinessport.com

After the fall of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his fledgling Samajwadi Party emerged as the ‘protectors’ of Muslims, deposing the Congress, whose government at the Centre ‘couldn’t protect the 16th- century Ayodhya mosque’
But two years before that he’d earned the sobriquet of ‘Mullah Mulayam’. When hundreds of kar sevaks were moving towards Ayodhya on a call given by then BJP president LK Advani, Mulayam famously claimed, “not even a bird can flap its wings in Ayodhya (Parinda bhi par nahi mar sakta)”. He followed this up with action: ordering police to fire on rampaging kar sevaks in Ayodhya – 28 of them died.
That was October 1990. The year that saw a head-on collision of ‘Mandal’ and ‘kamandal’ forces. In 1989, Mulayam took over as UP CM for the first time as the Janata Dal candidate, with the support of BJP. However, ties with the saffron party got strained when PM VP Singh, heading the Janata Dal-led government at the Centre, implemented the Mandal Commission report to give 27% job reservation to OBCs.
The RSS and BJP, which was supporting the VP Singh government at the Centre, saw it as a ploy to divide Hindus. Riding on the public connect of the Ram Temple movement, especially in north and west India, the saffron party countered it with the religious card.
LK Advani announced a ‘rath yatra’ from Somnath to Ayodhya. Thousands of kar sevaks started marching towards Ayodhya to welcome him and perform kar seva for the temple. October 30,1990 was fixed as the date for kar seva at the Babri site.
Although Advani’s yatra was stopped by another Yadav chieftain, Lalu Prasad, in Bihar, the march of the kar sevaks towards Ayodhya was on. The temple town had been turned into a fortress. As the kar sevaks reached Ayodhya, clashes with security personnel started. On the afternoon of October 30, CM Mulayam ordered firing on the unruly kar sevaks. Per official records, 28 kar sevaks died in the police firing on October 30 and again on November 2. Some accounts, however, claim 50 died. His resolve to protect the Babri Masjid established his credentials as a champion of secularism and also earned him the moniker of ‘Mullah Mulayam’. His reputation among Muslims would remain intact even as the mosque was brought down two years later when he was no longer the CM.
In the changed socio-political milieu of the 2010s, the tag, however, kept haunting him, though on multiple occasions he justified his action. In 2017, while speaking at his 79th birthday function, Mulayam said that it was a “painful decision to open fire at kar sevaks but taken in the interest of the country”.
In his first term as CM (1989-91), Mulayam was also competing against PM VP Singh to emerge as the most popular figure among Muslims and the ‘secular intelligentsia’. VP Singh had declared the birth anniversary of the Prophet as a national holiday and put a spoke in Mulayam’s plan to arrest Advani by encouraging Lalu to do that before he could enter UP.
Firing on the kar sevaks was the single-most important factor in BJP’s success in the 1991 polls and the party emerged as an alternative in the state. Initially, Mulayam paid a heavy price for this move. In the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, the Janata Party could win just four seats while its tally in the Assembly dropped to 34.
But he remained firm on his posture of robust secularism and the resultant support from Muslims in UP ensured he played an important role both in the state and in Delhi. The community remained loyal to him – and even his son – in election after election after he formed his own outfit, Samajwadi Party, in 1992. Even in the 2022 UP polls, when SP lost for the second consecutive time, it got overwhelming support from Muslim voters.
Only in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, when Mulayam got closer to Kalyan Singh – the ‘villain’ of the Babri demolition – did the community cold-shoulder SP. It saw a minor revival of the Congress, which won 21 seats, ahead of BJP and BSP, and just two short of SP’s tally.

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