Why Uttarakhand Remained ‘Cold’ To Mulayam Singh Despite Supporting Call For Statehood

Samajwadi Party Patriarch Mulayam Singh, who breathed his last on Monday, was behind the establishment of ‘Uttarakhand’ which has remained ‘cold’ to Mulayam Singh and the Samajwadi Party. It was he who not only supported the call for a separate state, but also formed a Ramashankar-Kaushik committee that made several recommendations for the mountain state.

Then why couldn’t Mulayam Singh and the Samajwadi party leave a mark on Uttarakhand’s politics? Prof SN Sachan, one of Mulayam Singh’s associates in Uttarakhand, accused the BJP of spreading the “wrong message” after the Mulayam Singh-led Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) government in 1994 a 27 percent reservation had been announced for other Backward Class (OBC) students in the educational institutions.

“In the former UP hills, the BJP enjoyed influence and the party soon realized that once the 27 percent reservation for OBC students comes into effect, it will lose footing,” Prof Sachan told News18. “The students across the hill protested and remembered the 27 percent reservation as they felt it would take away their seats,” he added.

The anti-reservation movement of 1994 soon ignited into a “separate statehood” movement. As a result, several shots by the police in an attempt to control an agitated crowd claimed numerous lives. This gave the larger-than-life picture of Mulayam Singh a violent jolt.

“Both my daughters-in-law are from Uttarakhand, but look what kind of reception I’ve had in the state,” a confused then Prime Minister, Mulayam Singh, had told this writer after speaking at a 2004 election rally on the outskirts of Dehradun. That’s it SP leader Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple and Mulayam Singh’s younger son Prateek’s wife Aparna have family roots in Uttarakhand, although they remain politically active in Uttar Pradesh.

Ganesh Joshi, a cabinet minister who once stormed into an event hosted by Mulayam Singh in Dehradun, says: “People in the mountains cannot forget the police atrocities during the SP-BSP regime. That is the only reason why the SP could not gain a foothold in Uttarakhand.”

After the establishment of Uttarakhand, the SP failed to open its account in the State Assembly. The party’s vote share fell drastically in subsequent elections. The only exception was the Lok Sabha polls of 2004, when the party won against Haridwar over the non-Pahari issue shortly after the Pahari disputes.

Munna Singh Chauhan, the BJP’s red hot MLA who was SP MLA in 1996, remembers Mulayam Singh as someone who was a “great leader”. The BJP MLA said he left the SP after disagreements with Netaji over the Uttarakhand police shooting.

“Before 1994, Mulayam Singh ji was a widely popular chief in the mountains. He conceptualized Uttarakhand and was clear about Gairsain as the state capital. The administrative requirements for a new state and so on,” Chauhan said.

If Lucknow was the state capital of UP, then Dehradun was another “undeclared” capital of the state during the Mulayam regime, recalls Suryakant Dhasmana, senior Congress Chairman, one of the few leaders to hold talks with Netaji about establishing a new party in Dehradun led .

“Dehradun was especially Netaji’s favorite city. He often said he would like a home in Doon. Although it remained a dream,” Dhasmana recalls.

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