Samajwadi Party stalwart Azam Khan’s prestige hinges on the December 5 bypoll to the Rampur Assembly seat, which he has won 10 times. The candidate is his aide Asim Raza, who incidentally lost the bypoll for the Rampur parliamentary seat earlier this year, after Khan vacated it to fight the Assembly elections. Now, with Khan’s conviction and the Rampur Assembly seat falling vacant, Raza has again stepped in to fight, against the BJP’s full might. Khan talks about the BJP’s claims of winning over Muslims, and why he remains confident of the SP retaining the seat. Excerpts:
No, they did not win the Lok Sabha seat, they only got the certificate (saying so). They could not have won. After creating so much terror and fear, they got only 3.6 lakh votes. They know it, as does the winning candidate. Go and ask him, and he will talk to you with his head lowered.
It is not Azam Khan. It is the issues with which we go to the people. Before 1980, there were just two big buildings here, the palace and the fort. Rest there was nothing, except huts and flying dust. The Rampur that you see today is the Rampur that has been built after that.
The BJP is accusing you of winning elections by creating fear among the electorate, and that it will provide actual development.
Every day, 10-20 doors are broken down, women are slapped, my wife is misbehaved with, police station lock-ups are full of locals, flag marches of armed forces are happening in the city, and all unscrupulous contractors are joining the BJP. That is how well-meaning the BJP campaign is here. A small town is being terrorized.
But, there is talk that with Azam Khan not the candidate this time, the SP might lose.
Who else is the candidate? I have lost my right to vote too, so obviously, I can’t contest. My nationality is intact, what greater grace can there be from those who run the country? That is why people will vote for me, because I have no right to vote.
The BJP is also accusing ‘secular’ parties of ignoring Pasmanda Muslims, and is wooing them and claiming they will vote for the party.
I am so happy that the BJP is at least changing course. Now it has come down to Muslim appeasement. I want to congratulate them for this. If they start thinking about all Muslims, it will be even better. All those engaged in cow slaughter in Rampur, and accused in scores of such cases, have all become the pride of the BJP’s dais. All hardened Muslim criminals have joined the BJP. It has now become the Muslim Bharatiya Janata Party. The good work that they are doing for Muslims here, by scaring them, by beating them up and by threatening them, if they start doing this with all Muslims in the country, all issues will be over. The issues of Mandir-Masjid, loudspeaker, naqab, will all disappear. We also want the same. So why only Pasmanda Muslims? All Muslims are Pasmanda (backward). But the question is when all those who slaughter cows sit with the BJP, who will protect the cows?
This is what Muslims are meant for. Let the BJP say what they want. They aren’t saying enough. I have never said anything against Hindus. The biggest team with me today is of Hindus. I have got everyone’s vote. In the parliamentary polls, I won all the Hindu-majority booths.
You have been convicted of hate speech.
The law is that, if I say something, until there is a reaction to it, I cannot be punished. There was this person who said so many things regarding Khalistan, but the Supreme Court acquitted him on the ground that there was no reaction to his statements. But I have been convicted, though I hadn’t even made those statements. At 5 pm, the judgment (conviction) came and at 5.10 pm, the Election Commission cancelled my membership of the Assembly. The same evening the Speaker announced that Assembly constituency 38 had been vacated, instead of 37 (Rampur) – – (making the mistake as) he was in such a tearing hurry. And the next day the Election Commission did what is being debated in the Supreme Court about its own appointments.
How will it be Hindu-Muslim when those who slaughter cows are on the other side? Those who are history-sheeters in such matters are with the BJP? All Muslims criminals are with them. These polls are without any issue. The issue is only to protect oneself. Save yourself, if joining the BJP is what it takes… if keeping them happy is what it takes… if paying them is what it takes… But (they will) vote for us. And that is what will happen.
A king once ordered all the camels to be rounded up. All the camels started running helter-skelter. A fox also started running away. Someone asked her, ‘The camels are being rounded up. Why are you running?’ The fox said, ‘First save your life. It will be determined only later who is a camel and who is a fox’. So Muslims are right now just saving their lives. So that doors are not broken down, women are not beaten up, people are not pulled by their beards and they are not locked up.