My Dear Samajwadi Friends

It must seem strange that I address you thus. But you have stranger friends today. Compulsion has brought us together where foresight could have brought us much earlier. Let us not ask too many questions because there are no answers. But let us ask this “ Do we know what we seek and will we persevere? Coalitions are uneasy matters, and more so ours. There is a lot of ˜give' and ˜take' but that works only if the one who can give is prepared to give to the one who needs to take. Some people in your party, and I dare say mine, get upset when I try to put the ˜giver' and the ˜taker' in perspective. So in the spirit of our newborn relationship let me atleast say this - we both have to give and we both have to take. Of course that's easily said than done.

For years now we have resisted each other or even sought to demolish each other. In the process the Babri Masjid and the administrative infrastructure of UP, both got demolished. Even as we retrace our steps to the past, the ASI digs and excavations are forcing us to think of what lies in the future. I only have to wipe the dust off my old photo albums and files to tell my story. We go back to early 1990s. Your leader sought to speak up provocatively for Muslims and the Mosque. Many in the Congress opposed him for caste politics. I stood by him. Again after 1996 he championed the cause of minorities. I stood by him against the wishes of some influential dear friends in my party. Many opposed him desperately, even to the extent of vertically dividing the party. I faced stiff resistance from our workers everywhere. Finally, I lost and those who opposed him worked out a deal with Mayawati. Thus began our retreat. Today many of them are inimical to Mayawati and I am seen as no friend of your leader. Should we not reflect on the wheel turning a full circle? And what is happening to UP meanwhile? A few statues and a few parks named after Baba Ambedkar is all we have to show for our combined endeavours of ten years.

Let us get one thing straight “ none of us are perfect. Most of us have changed sides “ physically or metaphorically. We have all made little compromises with crime, caste and corruption. We all live in transparent glasshouses. So let the stone-throwing stop. That is the spirit of Shimla. But what is the road ahead, if there is one at all. Can we make a sincere effort to bond together, or atleast to respect each other? To begin with we will both have to accept that we can expect and justifiably hope to have a life beyond our present relationship and indeed beyond the life of this government. That too may be together or even separate. We both offer a peculiar way of life, a promise of India to be. At times we might look indistinguishable from an each other or indeed the rest of the political spectrum. Yet we are different or else we would not be different parties.

Ultimately let the people judge, which is the best bet for them. Just that deliberately or unconsciously introduced distortions in people's choice must be removed. If we can live with the idea of your eliminating differences between your leader and Kalyan Singh, should we not resolve the complex problem of Ayodhya as well? If the accusers and the accused can rub shoulders together, shouldn't' we, the innocent bystanders also be absolved of having watched helplessly? No where in the world have such dramatic reconciliation between sworn enemies taken place except in the case US and Japan, and US and Vietnam. Let us not forget that thousands of people were killed and many more lives were shattered. The riots of 1993 and the Bomb blasts in Bombay cannot just be obliterated. The recent Bomb explosions in Mumbai are but a ghastly reminder. Which one of us is safe? And how safe now is our beloved native land. So although it may feel good to see Mayawati's back and BJP's exit, there is still the question of wounds inflicted in the name of communities. What is our plan to heal them? Could we not begin by saying sorry?

You will be pleased that we chose to walk in the dark with you. But will you feel bitter if we cannot walk on? Are your feelings of friendship for good times only, or are they for bad times too? Are we together forgetting the past to chart a course of justice and development for all, or are we only using each other as stepping-stones? You cherish your leader, we cherish ours. For you he is No.1 for us she is No.1. But at the end of the day we have to honestly decide “ who can reach every corner of our land, every heart, every mind? Every flower in the garden has its value but not every flower can be a rose! Is the leadership of India as clear as the leadership of Uttar Pradesh?

This is not idle talk. This is all no less important than the posts, the roads, the handpumps, the police escorts, the cooperative benefits, the willing Districts Officials etc that come with power in UP. (Notice I did not mention money?!) Is it possible that we begin to piece together the caste and politics divided society of UP? Is it possible that we think beyond ruling over people to ruling for the people? Is it possible that we let go of hypocrisy and embrace honesty? Is it possible that we be real friends and not seek to be masters? I believe it is, but it has to be a two-way thing. There is no one-way ticket to success in our alliance. Once the celebration is over let us think about our UP and our people. Let us work together for roti, kapra, makan for everyone.

Yours in alliance.

Salman Khurshid



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