By Ashima Makhija
In a sudden decision, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has expelled its Muslim face Naseemuddin Siddiqui and his son Afzal. They have been expelled on the grounds of carrying out “anti-party” activities. In the party hierarchy, Siddiqui was second to the party supremo Mayawati and had been one of her closest aides since 1995. 1995 was also the year when BSP came to power in Uttar Pradesh for the first time.
Defeated by the BJP in the 2017 UP elections, BSP is facing a severe crisis. Mr Siddiqui has alleged that after the party’s March defeat, Mayawati said disrespectful things about upper and backward castes. Besides, she also made derogatory remarks against Muslims. Since then, their relationship has been strained.
The Party Favourite
In 1995, when Mayawati became the UP Chief Minister with BJP’s support, she appointed Siddiqui as a minister and made him a member of the Legislative Council. He was made the agriculture minister in the second BJP-BSP government in 1997. In 2002, he became the minister for transport, environment and excise under the third BJP-BSP government.
During the 2007 poll campaign, when the BSP experimented with new social engineering, he was projected as the party’s Muslim face. When the BSP formed its first majority government, Siddiqui was among one of the most influential ministers. He had the charge of about a dozen departments, including Public Works Department and Excise. Before the 2012 elections, Mayawati targeted and removed several ministers who were indicted by the Lokayukta for corruption. However, when Siddiqui was indicted, she did not act. When the party fell out of power in 2012, Siddiqui became the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, a post with the rank of a cabinet minister.
Growing rifts in the party
In the assembly polls this year, BSP relied majorly on Muslim support, and Siddiqui campaigned for most of the seats in western UP, the traditional stronghold for BSP. He reached out to Muslims, including clerics, some of whom declared their support for the party. But after winning only 19 out of the 403 seats in the elections, Mayawati stripped him of all his responsibilities in UP and transferred him to the Madhya Pradesh. One of the reasons for expulsion includes Siddiqui’s “indiscipline” as he refused to go to Madhya Pradesh. Senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra alleged that he had amassed a large number of benami or undeclared properties, was running illegal slaughter houses, and took money from people promising favours once the BSP returned to power in UP.
Sources in BSP have felt that Mayawati is distancing herself from Siddiqui to preserve the party’s image and reputation. Siddiqui faces a number of inquiries. The UP Vigilance Establishment is probing him in connection with irregularities in the construction of memorials and parks during the BSP regime. He is also facing a Vigilance probe for disproportionate assets. The new UP government led by BJP is expected to take up all such cases with great vigour.
Siddiqui hits back
After his expulsion, Siddiqui launched a wave of allegations against Mayawati on Thursday. He claimed that she allegedly called Muslims “a traitor community” and labelled all bearded men as dogs. Siddiqui further alleged that Mayawati had demanded Rs 50 crore from him for the party, and when he failed to provide the money, he and his son were expelled on false charges. He also accused Mishra of aiding his expulsion from the party. He has threatened to “reveal all the secrets” of the party, which, according to him, could cause an ‘earthquake’.
He has not only denied all charges against him, but has also said that he was deeply hurt by the allegations. He said that he had faithfully served Mayawati and was committed to Kashiram’s ideology. Siddiqui said, “I was associated with his ideology for over three decades. For the sake of the party, I did not even visit my ailing daughter, who died due to lack of treatment, as Mayawati wanted my services during elections, and did not permit me to go for her self-interest.”
The BSP’s forte has always been minority representation. It has structured itself on elaborate community-based networks. The ousting of Siddiqui is expected to have an adverse impact on Muslim support. If the ex-BSP leader continues with his allegations, the party could potentially lose a lot of its support and authority in the state.
Featured image credits: Visual Hunt