If you really want to see the impact of Salman Rushdie, that spinner of midnight tales and repeater of Satanic Verses, or rather the impact of his non-appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival, look to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh (UP).
The man most vehemently opposed to Rushdie’s visit, apart from the Darul Uloom Deoband, was one Qazi (sometimes spelt as Kazi) Rasheed Masood. Now, Masood is one of the big defectors in these polls. A five-time member of Parliament (MP) from the Samajwadi Party (SP), he has now joined the Congress as its main Muslim face in western Uttar Pradesh, and perhaps its tallest Muslim face in the state.
Masood has lots to prove in these polls. Once upon a time, a vice presidential candidate of the Third Front pushed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, he now claims that the SP chieftain and his generals like Azam Khan are not working for the Muslims, especially in refusing to support further quotas.
Also, he has been causing enough bad blood within local Congress leaders and workers because the ‘High Command’ pitched him immediately to the Congress Working Committee and all his candidates were given tickets by the party in the Saharanpur area.
Mulayam Singh, though, has dismissed Masood as someone who comes and goes from the party regularly (the Muslim leader had left the party in 1997 and returned in 2003).
So the vitriol against Rushdie. Including echoes of demands to call off the Jaipur Literary Festival itself, if Rushdie, or his video image, showed up.
If Masood and his candidates win, a thank you letter is due to Salman Rushdie.