Concerned that its appeal among Muslim voters was dimming, Uttar
Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) is on an overdrive to
hardsell its boycott of a Harvard lecture after minister Azam Khan
was detained at Boston airport as "standing up to imperialist US".
Azam Khan's detention last week led to Chief Minister Akhilesh
Yadav boycotting the lecture at the Harvard Business School on the
successful management of the Kumbh Mela and also a civic reception
held in his honour by the Indian consulate. While the party has
since been attacking the US in its bid to become a "mascot of
anti-Americanism", Azam Khan also blamed External Affairs Minister
Soon after his return from the US Monday, Azam Khan announced that
the state was cancelling all future trips by its ministers to the
US. As if on cue, Vidhan Sabha Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey late
Monday cancelled the US leg of his Commonwealth tour beginning May
Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav also
wrote to US President Barack Obama on the issue.
Party strategists say the attack on Khurshid, added to the anti-US
campaign, was a "well thought one".
As an SP functionary put it: "Our minority vote bank had been
dented owing to the killing of a Muslim cop and the 28 plus
communal flare-ups but we hope all that would be a thing of past."
The party is making the most of the opportunity given to it.
Party spokesperson and Prisons Minister Rajendra Chowdhary hailed
Akhilesh Yadav for "standing up against unjust and anti-Muslim
America", a stand he said was in line with the SP's socialist
Supporting the chief minister's decision to boycott all
engagements in the US, Chowdhary said to IANS: "What is wrong in
His party colleague, SP national general secretary Ram Asrey
Kushwaha added that Akhilesh Yadav's move "would send the right
message among the Muslims".
With general elections due next year, party insiders admit that in
the coming days the party would go into overdrive to tell its
crucial Muslim vote bank that the SP has stood for them on foreign
The state bureaucracy is, however, unimpressed as is the
opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"This is a plan hatched long back but sadly they are now
compromising on national respect for petty political gains," said
BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak. He said the SP was trying
to break the Congress hold on fringe Muslim seats in Uttar Pradesh
by raising the anti-US bogey.
An official added that Akhilesh Yadav should have been more
"statesman like" and not been "swayed by the pressure built by his
ministerial colleague Mohd. Azam Khan".
"It has been a very sad week," mused a senior industrial
department official, pointing out that the work on creating an
industry and investment friendly environment in the state has been
undone by this US trip.
"The behaviour of the CM sadly is very amateur and unbecoming of a
state's chief executive," added an official.
"If any offence was taken by the UP delegation on the 'extended
frisking' of its urban development minister, the CM should have
taken it up during his lecture," said another.
The fate of the chief minister's visit to the US in July on the
invitation of the US India Business Council (USIBC) also now hangs
in balance. The chief minister is scheduled to visit Boston, New
York, Chicago and other American cities to boost investment
chances in the state.
The road shows and other engagements that were planned for
Akhilesh Yadav's July trip to US have "for now been put on hold",
sources told IANS.
"There is no word yet, but we presume that it would no longer be a
smooth trip, if it was to go the way we planned it," said an
office bearer of the USIBC.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)