Though Azam Khan’s wife, Tazeen Fatima, is the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate and is primarily pitted against ruling BJP’s Bharat Bhushan Gupta, the fight has turned into a personal battle between Azam Khan and the ruling party.
With 86 cases lodged against him since April this year, stakes are high for Azam. While addressing a rally on Friday, he broke down, saying that he had lost 22 kg of weight.
Azam, who was elected to Parliament in the recent Lok Sabha polls, had won the seat nine times since 1980. He was defeated only once in this period by Congress’s Afroz Ali Khan in 1996.
A senior SP leader, considered close to Azam, said the seat is “like his fortress”. On the back of 86 cases lodged against Azam since April, he would want to “win the seat at any cost” to prove that people are still rallying behind him.
“Azam Khan is known because of Rampur. He would hate to lose it and will do anything to win it. That is the reason he has fielded his wife. They have lodged so many cases against him. This will be another opportunity for him to prove that he still has support from the people,” said the leader, who did not wish to be identified.
Muslims constitute around 60 per cent of the electorate, while Brahmins, Lodhis and Jatavs have considerable voters.
In 2017, Azam had won the seat by bagging 47.74 per cent of the total votes against 28.84 per cent of Shiv Bahadur Saxena of the BJP, followed by BSP’s Tanveer Ahmed Khan at 25.36 per cent. It was for the first time that his vote share had dropped below 50 per cent. In 2007 and 2012, Azam’s vote share had hovered around 55 per cent.
The Rampur bypoll was necessitated after Azam was elected as an MP. His wife, Fatima, is currently a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh till November next year. She will have to give up her membership if she wins the Assembly seat. The bypoll is due on October 21, results for which will be declared on October 24.
Gupta had contested the seat on a BSP ticket in 2013 and come third with 9.57 per cent of the votes. He quit the BSP the same year and joined the BJP. He contested zila panchayat polls in 2012.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Gupta said that he was confident of winning the seat as Muslims of Rampur are tired of being exploited by Azam. “He has left Muslims in destitute. He is now land mafia and no one in his family is liked by the people of Rampur. We are getting a positive response from the people, including the Muslim community. The main poll issues for us will be our government’s exemplary rule at the Centre and in the state and Azam’s exploitation of the people,” said Gupta.
The Congress has fielded first-timer Arshad Ali Khan alias Guddu, a lawyer based in Rampur, while the BSP has fielded retired IRS officer Zubair Masood Khan.