Azam Khan supporters face 'loyalty test' in Rampur

Azam Khan supporters face 'loyalty test' in Rampur

PTI | Rampur | Updated: 15-04-2024 21:32 IST | Created: 15-04-2024 21:28 IST
Azam Khan supporters face 'loyalty test' in Rampur
File Photo Image Credit: ANI
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The absence of Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan from Rampur has left party loyalists conflicted. Should they vote for the “alternative” offered by the party or retain allegiance to the stalwart who dominated the local politics for five decades? Khan, is currently lodged in Sitapur jail, serving a seven-year sentence. His politician wife Tazeen Fatima and their younger son, former MLA Abdullah Azam, too are in jail.

That leaves nobody from the family to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the constituency that was once seen as their stronghold.

In Azam's absence, the SP has fielded Mohibullah Nadvi, a cleric at a mosque located on Delhi's Parliament Street.

But Khan’s close aide Asim Raja too had filed his nomination papers from Rampur describing himself an SP candidate -- and there was confusion for several hours over who was the “authorised” party nominee.

Raja, however, is now out of the race as his nomination papers were rejected during scrutiny.

Thanks to Khan, Rampur had been an SP bastion for long. While Khan is a hero to many, the BJP has accused him of stalling progress in the area and bringing a “rule of injustice”.

In the last bypoll, the BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi won the parliamentary constituency, in which over 40 per cent voters are Muslim. The BJP has fielded Lodhi again, and he could gain if SP supporters turn out to be not too keen on Khan's “replacement”.

Since Khan is in jail, the local SP unit had wanted party president Akhilesh Yadav himself to contest from Rampur. District SP president Ajay Sagar had even said party workers would “boycott” electioneering if Yadav didn’t agree.

''We are deeply saddened that this time neither mantri ji (Azam Khan) nor any member of his family is in the electoral fray. We are missing him a lot,'' he told PTI on the ''confusion''.

''Every possible effort will be made to make the candidate sent by the party win,'' he added.

Sagar earlier alleged that the district administration has been threatening Muslim voters in recent years and asking them not to cast their vote. So the SP needed a stalwart like Yadav to step in, he argued.

Yadav met Khan in jail last month, triggering speculation that the Muslim leader had requested him to contest the election from Rampur.

During his campaign, Nadvi has been calling Azam Khan his ''bade bhai'' (elder brother), and asking people to vote for him so that the leader is freed from jail.

The Khans were convicted over Abdullah Azam's fake birth certificate, allegedly obtained so that the upcoming leader could fight an election. Khan’s elder son Adeeb Azam has kept himself away from politics.

Azam Khan has been the MLA from Rampur Sadar seat 10 times and was elected an MP from Rampur Lok Sabha constituency once in 2019. But he vacated the parliamentary seat in 2022 after being elected an MLA from Rampur Sadar.

His ''favourite'' Asim Raja then contested the Lok Sabha seat, only to be defeated by Ghanshyam Lodhi.

Khan suffered another blow when he was disqualified from the assembly after being sentenced in a case of hate speech. This time, the BJP's Akash Saxena defeated Raja.

There are five assembly constituencies in the district. Bilaspur, Rampur Sadar and Milak are held by the BJP, and Swar Tanda by BJP ally Apna Dal (Sonelal). Only Chamraua seat is now with the SP.

Rampur will vote in the first phase of polling on April 19.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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