Updated: January 26, 2022 5:09:07 pm
Dispelling any doubts about its bonds with jailed MP Azam Khan, the Samajwadi Party (SP) has again announced his candidature as the party candidate from the Rampur constituency, while fielding his son Abdullah Azam Khan from the Suar seat in Rampur district. The battle lines were thus drawn for a keen contest between the father-son Azam duo and their traditional rival, the family of the erstwhile Nawabs of Rampur, in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
The descendant of the erstwhile Rampur royal family, Kazim Ali Khan (alias Naved Miyan) will take on Azam in the Rampur seat on the Congress ticket, while the BJP has nominated Akash Saxena as its candidate. In Suar constituency, the BJP’s ally Apna Dal (S) has fielded Kazim’s 30-year-old son Haider Ali Khan (alias Hamza Miyan) against
Abdullah. The Congress had earlier declared Haider, a Shia Muslim, as its candidate from the seat, but he switched to the Apna Dal (S) and became the first Muslim candidate to be fielded by the NDA in UP since 2014. The Apna Dal, led by Union Minister Anupriya Patel, which enjoys influence in the eastern UP, which has a sizeable Kurmi population, sprang a surprise by giving its ticket to Haider from a constituency in the Rohilkhand region in northwestern UP.
The two seats in Rampur district are witnessing a re-run of the electoral battle between the two families that became arch rivals after Azam Khan emerged in Rampur politics as a “common person” against its “Nawabs and feudal lords” four decades ago.
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“Azam, whose father was a typist, used to invoke his humble background in his election speeches and would hit out at the family of the Nawabs, whom he described as feudal lords. His style was very theatrical and he would level allegations against the Nawab family after he burst upon the scene in Rampur politics after completing his education from the Aligarh Muslim University,” says a senior SP leader. “Since then, Azam did well electorally and made Rampur his stronghold, becoming an MLA nine times. Though the Nawab family never publicly described Azam as a competitor, Azam always invoked their names and sought to make it a David versus Goliath-type contest.”
Kazim is the son of Begum Noor Bano, a two-time Congress MP from Rampur (1999 and 1996), who was married to late Syed Zulfiqar Ali Khan (alias Mikky Mian), the son of Nawab Raza Ali Khan, who was the Nawab of the Rampur princely state before the Independence.
This is going to be the first time Kazim will contest against Azam in an election directly, even though the political rivalry between the two families has been continuing since the 1980s. Kazim was elected MLA from Suar three times – in 2002, 2007 and 2012. In was in 2017 that Azam’s son Abdullah defeated him and became an MLA on his debut.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kazim said he will contest the election from the Rampur seat on “local issues”. “My campaign is focusing on Rampur. I don’t want the people to lose focus and make it a state-level affair,” he said.
Asked about his candidature on the Congress ticket and his son contesting as a BJP ally’s nominee, he said, “It’s not the first time this is happening. Madhavrao Scindia contested as a Congress nominee while his mother and sister were in BJP. Mulayam Singh Yadav has made his daughter-in-law join the BJP.”
The BJP candidate, Akash Saxena, who takes credit for lodging most of the criminal complaints against Azam and his family, said, “Azam should not contest this election on moral grounds because of the cases against him. It is just a matter of time before he is sentenced to jail. I see my fight against the Congress candidate, while Azam will be fighting for third place.”
While Azam continues to be in jail, Abdullah was out on bail on 15 January. They have been facing multiple charges, including cheating, after Azam, his wife Tanzeen Fatima, a sitting SP MLA, and Abdullah surrendered before a local court in Rampur in February 2020 in connection with a case related to alleged forgery of Abdullah’s birth certificate. In December 2020, Fatima obtained bail and was released from the prison.
As per police records, a total of 81 cases have been filed against Azam and 32 against Fatima, while Abdullah faces a total of 43 cases. While Azam says he was framed in these cases due to “political vendetta” by the Yogi Adityanath government, the police and administration maintain that the cases have nothing to do with politics and were lodged based on local people’s complaints.
There seems to be a perception in Rampur that Azam and his son will get the Muslim community’s vote as people are “sympathetic” towards how their family was sent to jail under the BJP dispensation. Muslims form a majority in both the Rampur and Suar seats and will be a deciding factor in determining their winners.
After being released from the jail, Abdullah had broken down while addressing SP workers virtually on January 19 as he mentioned his father’s health, even as their supporters raised “Azam Khan zindabad” slogan.
Kazim dismisses it as “natakbaazi” (drama) that the family “routinely does” in order to get public support. “His father used to do it. Now, his son is doing the same. People will not support them,” he claims.
In 2017, the Rampur seat was won by Azam after he garnered 1.02 lakh votes, defeating BJP candidate Shiv Bahadur Saxena, who got 55,258 votes. Azam, who won the seat nine times since 1980, was one of the most powerful ministers in the previous Akhilesh Yadav-led government during 2012-2017.
Azam vacated the seat after he got elected to the Lok Sabha from the Rampur parliamentary constituency in 2019. A bypoll was then held in the seat that was won by his wife Tanzeen, although her victory margin was a modest 7,716 votes.
In 2012, Azam had won the seat by a margin of 63,269 votes, when he defeated the Congress’s Tanveer Ahmad Khan, with the BJP’s Jageshwar Dayal Dixit coming fourth.
The Suar seat was won by Abdullah in 2017 after he secured 1.06 lakh votes, defeating the BJP’s Laxmi Saini who got 53,347 votes with Kazim finishing third with 42,233 votes. In 2019, Abdullah was disqualified from his membership of the UP Assembly in the wake of the Allahabad High Court judgment, which found that at the time of contesting the polls he was not 25 years old which is the minimum age for becoming a candidate for the Lok Sabha or the Assembly elections.
In 2012, the Suar seat was won for the second consecutive time by Kazim, who got 55,469 votes. The BJP’s Laxmi Saini was then the runner-up with 41,754 votes, while the SP’s Abdul Ghafoor Engineer had come third with 37,828 votes.
Meanwhile, the BJP Tuesday accused Azam Khan of having been the “mastermind” of the Muzaffarnagar riots.
While talking to reporters, Union Minister and Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjiv Balyan alleged that Azam had played a key role in triggering the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 when he was, Ballan claimed, “the de facto CM of west UP in the SP government”.
Balyan also justified top BJP leaders’ repeated attempts to rake up the Kairana exodus issue. “This is very important for the people of the region to be reminded of migration of Hindus from Kairana. The SP is not a party but a gang of goons. People should compare regimes of Adityanath and Akhilesh before making up their minds about casting their votes in the forthcoming elections,” he said.
A report by The Indian Express had found discrepancies in the Kairana exodus claim.
(With inputs from Amit Sharma, Meerut)
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