Violence that broke out recently outside Azad Maidan and spilt onto the surrounding areas of South Mumbai last, backfired for state Home Minister R. R. Patil and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The public protest meeting organised by the Raza Academy at Azad Maidan to influence the minority vote bank against the Congress in Maharashtra, is believed to have severely damaged Patil’s image as Home Minister and has paved the way for political rivals to demand Patil’s head.
The public meeting was organised to highlight and express anguish over the plight of the minorities in the Congress ruled state of Assam, and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA ) government’s stoic silence on genocide of minorities in Myanmar. The meeting was addressed by Raza Academy’s Saeed Noori and Maulana Syed Moen Khan, who are known to be associated with Patil and his party colleague, Chhagan Bhujbal.
The presence of former Assistant Commissioner of Police Shamsher Pathan, who heads the Awami Vikas Party and is known to be Bhujbal’s well-wisher, shared the dias with Saeed Noori, Maulana Khan, Maulana Abdul Qadir Alvi of the Barelvi sect from Uttar Pradesh, among others.
It was Maulana Alvi’s provocative statement while addressing a huge gathering of community members, that the media and government have looked the other way while genocide of minorities prevails in Assam and Myanmar, which triggered the violent attack on the media and then on the police. Police were caught napping. They did not anticipate the meeting taking a violent turn as the organisers were the Raza Academywhose leaders are known to be strong supporters of senior NCP leaders and ministers like Patil and Bhujbal.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP ) leader and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s criticism of Patil, his one-time protégé raises strong suspicion that Patil is likely to be shortly eased out. Earlier, Patil was sent packing as Home Minister in 2008 against the backdrop of the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai and was reinstated as Home Minister in 2009 following the Democratic Front alliance retaining power.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan categorically statement to the media immediately after the violence subsided that he was aware the violence was pre-planned and was part of a conspiracy, clearly spells out that he strongly suspected political detractors having a hand in the flare up. Chavan, however, did not elaborate on the conspiracy and the people behind the violence unleashed by lumpen elements who attended the protest meet.
Interestingly, the following day, Chavan indirectly retracted his previous evening’s statement by commenting that there is a strong suspicion of a foreign hand behind the violence. Probably the Congress high command advised Chavan against taking his political detractors head on since it could create a dent in the alliance at the Centre and the state.
Certainly, the police should be held responsible for intelligence failure and poor ‘preparedness’, as the likelihood of violence could be anticipated because the crowds were soaring every five minutes once the speakers took to the mike. But finally, the blame lies at the doorstep of Patil and the NCP.
Even otherwise Patil has come under fire from not only the opposition but also NCP leader and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. Against the backdrop of the Pune blasts, Patil came under flak from Pawar for failing to effectively exert authority over his department.
Pawar’s criticism of his one-time protégé raises strong suspicion that Patil is likely to be shortly eased out. Earlier, Patil was sent packing as Home Minister in 2008 against the backdrop of the 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai and was reinstated as Home Minister in 2009 following the Democratic Front alliance retaining power.
Now, time will only tell when Patil will be replaced since the NCP cannot risk the deteriorating law and order situation further worsening as the parliamentary and state polls are just 2 years away. Definitely, the organisers, Raza Academy, and others and speakers like Maulana Alvi will go scot free for inciting violence against the State. And to cover the tracks of the conspirators, innocent youth who were not connected with the protest rally or never partook in the violence will face the brunt of the police.