Dr Mohammad Iqbal, a retired teacher of Shibli College who now lives at Sanjarpur, nearly 25 km from Azamgarh, raises a pertinent question: “If not Mulayam who?” We have (BJP PM nominee) Narendra) Modi on the one side. We have our issues which have not been fulfilled but tell us the option.”
Despite being aware that the SP is not on a strong footing here, Mulayam has chosen to fight from Azamgarh, which has been in the news mostly for terror suspects.
The party’s district unit is riddled with infighting. Two ministers Balram Yadav and Durga Yadav don’t see eye to eye. People are angry with the local SP MLAs.
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After Mulayam’s nomination, his detractors raised the issue of his being outsider. The whole Yadav clan — Dharmendra Yadav, Ramgopal Yadav, Shivpal Yadav — are now camping in the district, countering the charge by this slogan —“Tan Se Etawah Ke, Man Se Azamgarhi”.
But the crucial Muslim votes could drift away as the BSP has fielded local MLA Shah Alam alias Guddu Jamali. “Just wait, Mulayam will lose. Muslims are not opening up but they are with me,” Jamali said.
Dr Javed Akhtar, an orthopaedic surgeon and father of jailed Indian Mujahideen operative Asadullah Akhtar, was guarded in his reply. “At times, people learn by losing a battle. We have decided (whom to vote) but will not reveal,” he said. Dr Akhtar had contested the 2009 elections as Rashtriya Ulema Council candidate and polled over 60,000 votes. Council chief Maulana Amir Rashadi is in the fray to take on Mulayam.
“Mulayam remains the first choice for Muslims. Mulayam’s nomination has changed the situation in Azamgarh. Muslims are not fools to divide their votes in favour of someone who will not win,” said Moazzam Khan of Nizamabad.
Meanwhile, Congress candidate Arvind Jaiswal looks a non-starter with party leaders staying away from campaigning. The district Congress office remained closed amid election fever.
For nearly three lakh Yadavs, the contest is a prestige issue. While the BJP candidate is Ramakant Yadav, their focus is on the community’s tallest leader.
The bigger worry for both BJP and SP, however, is the Thakur votes which are shifting towards BSP following the murder of former MLA Sarvesh Singh Seepu of BSP.
“Sarvesh was our friend. When his family protested, police had resorted to firing. Thakurs still remember the incident,” Jamali said.