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Murmurs in Sangh Parivar over high honour for Mulayam Singh Yadav

Social media supporters of the government and the BJP expressed displeasure in choosing Mulayam Singh for Padma awards

January 26, 2023 12:14 pm | Updated January 27, 2023 12:34 am IST - NEW DELHI:

As Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered police firing on kar sewaks in the aftermath of the Ram Rath Yatra in Ayodhya on November 2, 1990. File

As Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered police firing on kar sewaks in the aftermath of the Ram Rath Yatra in Ayodhya on November 2, 1990. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Padma awards announced on Wednesday evening underlined once again, the Modi government’s consistent trend of choosing political leaders ideologically opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Republic Day honours, be it Bharat Ratna for late President Pranab Mukherjee or late Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi. But the choice of late Mulayam Singh this year seems to have created discomfort among some in the ideological ecosystem of the BJP.

As soon as the late socialist leader’s name was announced as this year’s recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India, social media supporters of the government and the BJP expressed displeasure, largely due to the actions of Singh, when as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, he had ordered police firing on kar sewaks in the aftermath of the Ram Rath Yatra in Ayodhya on November 2, 1990. This firing led to the death of many kar sewaks, official reports putting the number at 16, disputed by those involved in the movement. In fact, family members of Ram Kumar Kothari and Sharad Kumar, known as the “Kothari brothers” who perished in that firing, were among the 175 dignitaries invited to take part in the bhoomi poojan of the under-construction Ram Temple in Ayodhya in 2020.

Paradoxically, Singh was also instrumental in bailing out the BJP on key moments, like when then Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 1999 tried to form a government and said the famous phrase “we have 272” (the majority number in Parliament) only to have Singh switch sides, or even when in 2002, he offered support to the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) presidential candidate A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

It is perhaps this chequered history between the two parties, BJP and Samajwadi Party (SP), as also the fact that the BJP under Prime Minister Modi commands the support of several communities which earlier were under the Mandal umbrella, especially in Uttar Pradesh, that led to the choice of Singh for Padma Vibhushan. For his part, Prime Minister Modi, in his condolence message when Singh passed away, termed him a “key soldier for democracy during the Emergency. As Defence Minister, he worked for a stronger India. His parliamentary interventions were insightful and emphasised on furthering national interest.”

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