THE Modi government’s announcement Wednesday of a Padma Vibhushan to Mulayam Singh Yadav underlined the long distance the BJP has come when it comes to the Samajwadi Party founder and OBC leader.
When the BJP ramped up its Ram temple campaign in the late 1980s, which would eventually power it to the dominant position it occupies now in Uttar Pradesh and to a large extent at the Centre, the tallest leader who stood in its way was Mulayam.For years after that, “Mullah Mulayam” remained the BJP’s choice epithet for the SP chief, while the party’s alleged Muslim appeasement was the BJP’s pet campaign plank. Even as recently as the 2022 Assembly polls, the BJP raised the 1990 firing on kar sevaks to target the SP.However, the modification in the BJP’s stance, especially when it came to Mulayam, has been taking shape for some time – coinciding with the party’s shift to OBC politics in UP, as the fulfilment of the temple promise dried up gains from that front.During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when Mulayam declared that it was going to be his last election from Mainpuri, top BJP leaders stayed away from campaigning there. The SP supremo won by a big margin.One of the first leaders to arrive at the hospital where Mulayam died was Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The Uttar Pradesh government accorded full state honours for his cremation.
In his tweet condoling Mulayam’s death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about their “close association” when both were CMs, and said he “always looked forward to hearing his views”.
Soon after Mulayam’s death in October last year, RSS functionaries paid tributes to Mulayam at an Akhil Bhartiya Karyakari Mandal meeting in Prayagraj.Then, during the campaign for the by-election in Mainpuri necessitated by Mulayam’s death, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath started his first speech by paying tributes to the SP leader. Besides, he skipped any mention of the Ayodhya issue.p