BJP eager to encash Kalyan Singh’s legacy in UP polls

Kalyan Singh, a Lodh by caste, was an amalgamation of Mandal and kamandal politics, who gave BJP taste of power for first time in UP. Will the magic be re-invoked in his death?

PM Modi paying his last respects to former UP CM Kalyan Singh
PM Modi paying his last respects to former UP CM Kalyan Singh

NH Correspondent/Lucknow

The BJP leaders bid a tearful adieu to Kalyan Singh, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and who was projected as the Hindu mascot by the saffron party during the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and from Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to National BJP president J P Nadda all flew down to Lucknow or Aligarh to pay their last respect to Kalyan Singh. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath even accompanied the mortal remains of Kalyan Singh to Aligarh and went to Narora where the last rites were performed.

Kalyan Singh, the first BJP Chief Minister in UP, deserved the respect. But the way senior leaders made a beeline for the darshan and news channels beamed the whole programme for three days, the BJP has succeeded in sending a subtle message balancing the complex Mandal and kamandal issues because the caste and the religion are bound to play an important role in the coming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Probably this was the reason as to why Samajwadi Party leaders stayed away from paying tribute to Kalyan Singh as there was a fear that this might antagonise Muslims and harm SP in assembly elections.

People familiar with the political scenario of UP vouch that Kalyan Singh had blow hot, blow cold relations with BJP. Twice he left that party and once he even joined hands with Mulayam Singh Yadav. In 2003, when Mulayam Singh Yadav became Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh’s son Rajveer Singh became health minister and continued to hold the post till 2007.

No one can question the administrative and political acumen of Kalyan Singh. But what made BJP interested was the caste – Lodh a backward – which brought the kamandal and the Mandal issues to the favour of BJP. This was in the 1980s when BJP’s aggressive Hindutva was challenged by the rising tide of backward caste politics. The onerous task before the BJP was to propel Hindutva along with the rising caste politics. The brilliant answer was Kalyan Singh – the backward caste leader from the Lodh community. The Kalyan Singh era went on to become the starting point of BJP’s caste calculations and broadening the Hindutva base across the caste fault lines.

In the present-day scenario, Kalyan Singh’s caste and Hindutva image came to the rescue of the BJP. In the almost five years rule of Yogi Adityanath, the backward felt alienated. This led to the murmur of even projecting Keshav Prasad Maurya, the Deputy Chief Minister, as the next chief minister. In the recent expansion carried out in the Modi cabinet, four out of seven ministers from UP are from Backward castes.

So, with the death, of Kalyan Singh BJP ensured that right signal should go among the Backward. That is the reason that on August 22 Prime Minister paid tribute while the next day Union Home Minister flew down to Aligarh to pay tribute. Thus, on both days Kalyan Singh and BJP remained in the limelight.

Secondly, Keshav Prasad Maurya, the PWD minister, proposed that the road leading to Ram Temple in Ayodhya will be called Kalyan Singh Road. He also announced roads in Aligarh, Bulandshahr and other parts of the state would be named after Kalyan Singh.

But some people who have worked with Kalyan Singh claim that he never wanted the mosque to be demolished, the way it actually did on December 6, 1992 which led to the falling of his government.

Anil Swarup, a retired IAS officer who was Secretary and Director Information when Kalyan Singh was chief minister of UP wrote in his book ‘Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant’: “ … He (Kalyan Singh) did want a grand temple at Ayodhya and was diligently working towards a peaceful and amicable consensus. There were indeed a few options emerging. One such option was the construction of a new masjid close to the site. He even gave an example of the shifting of mosques when Aswan Dam was being constructed in Egypt. This idea was gradually gaining currency. He was engaging intensively with all the stakeholders. However, he was totally against the aggressive posturing that was the hallmark of right-wing religious organisations.”

“…However, what happened on the 6th of December 1992 shocked him as well…This became evident on the 6th of December in his telephonic conversation with Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the then chief minister of Rajasthan. I was present when this conversation took place. Kalyan Singh was livid. He reiterated that he was against such a congregation, but he was overruled and no one listened to him. His reservation about such a congregation was not based on any apprehension of a mishap (he was somehow convinced that the structure will never come down in the manner it finally did) but with regard to the unnecessary distractions that such events created,” Swarup wrote in his book.

Nevertheless, the top BJP leaders’ amassing at Kalyan Singh’s darshan and last rites and their emphasis in their condolence messages on Kalyan Singh being a “Ram Bhakt” clearly indicate the BJP’s eagerness to encash the departed leader’s legacy in the coming UP elections.

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