As the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who virtually presided over the horrific demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 2, 1992, an event that stunned an entire nation and traumatised a community, Kalyan Singh is so completely identified with the destruction of the 16th century mosque that his belated clarification, offered 16 years later, can only rekindle the anger of the Muslim community as it reopens unhealed wounds. Apart from the point that Mr. Kalyan Singh allowed the sangh parivar vandals to bring down the masjid, he also betrayed a solemn promise that he made to the Supreme Court to protect the structure. Actually gloating over the savagery, he called the demolition “the proudest moment” of his life and gladly went to jail for it. It stretches credulity that the former Bharatiya Janata Party leader should imagine that all will be forgiven if he merely makes some apologetic remarks about the demolition and utters some cosmetic words in praise of Hindu-Muslim unity. More to the point, it appears to be a tactical gesture designed to please his would-be-ally, Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party. Mr. Yadav who sees the Muslim community as a crucial constituency can ill afford to accommodate Mr. Kalyan Singh, tainted as he is by the Babri Masjid demolition. It is therefore imperative for Mr. Kalyan Singh, who hopes for a closer political understanding with Mr. Yadav to mollify Muslims who in the past weeks have openly questioned the growing bond between the Samajwadi Party chief and the once Hindutva champion.
Mr. Kalyan Singh is becoming a vital factor in Mr. Mulayam Singh’s calculations for the coming general election. He belongs to the Lodhi Rajput community which has a significant presence in half-a-dozen or so Lok Sabha constituencies in U.P. A consolidated vote bank of Other Backward Classes, while electorally strengthening Mr. Mulyam Singh, would also demonstrate the SP’s strength to the Congress with which it is engaged in tough seat-sharing talks. But judging from the widespread adverse reaction, ‘Operation Kalyan’ may well recoil on Mr. Mulayam Singh. Not long ago, Muslims deified “Maulana Mulayam.” Today the disillusioned community feels taken for granted even as the Congress seems determined to drive a harder bargain. Whether Mr. Kalyan Singh is such a prize worth losing all else for, is another question. In 2004, the BJP made much of his homecoming. But for all that hype, it performed abysmally in the Lok Sabha election, winning only 10 of 80 seats. For Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, who prides himself on being a leading symbol of secular politics, the dalliance with Mr. Kalyan Singh, reeking as it does of crass political opportunism, is likely to have high political costs.Corrections and Clarifications
A number of readers point out that the Babri Masjid was demolished onDecember 6, 1992. The first paragraph of "Demolition man" (Editorial,February 6, 2009) gave it as December 2, 1992.