Rampur Battle Royale: SP’s Azam Khan vs. Cong’s Kazim Ali Khan


While the absence of the SP’s Mohammed Azam Khan (who is in jail) from the election campaign is a talking point wherever one travels in Rampur district, its shadow hangs heavy, with many claiming that Azam, ‘ Khan saheb’ for the most part will win this election

Khan vs Khan: For many in Rampur, Azam Khan (left) is a victim of the BJP and this election is a time to give the ruling party an appropriate response for targeting the man many consider to be the greatest Muslim leader in the PU.

Rampur in UP’s Rohilkhand region, where voting is underway today (February 14) in the second phase of polling in this key northern state, is arguably the only district where the contest election rarely finds a mention of the ruling BJP. This constituency with a population of nearly 50% Muslim is witnessing what many consider a ‘battle royale’ between jailed Samajwadi party MP Mohammed Azam Khan and congressional candidate Kazim Ali Khan, a descendant of the former family Royal Rampur.

There are only fleeting mentions of BJP candidate Akash Saxena, son of former BJP MP Shiv Bahadur Saxena or BSP candidate Sadaqat Hussain, and these are quickly dismissed by locals.

But unlike previous elections in Rampur, today’s is different. Azam is not here this time to campaign for himself or his party – his polling speeches, often controversial for their regressive, below the belt and even polarizing statements directed at his rivals, do not set the order of the day. polling day in Rampur or its adjoining constituencies.

And yet, while Azam’s absence from the election campaign is a topic of discussion everywhere one travels in the district, his shadow looms large among his supporters, with many claiming that Azam, ‘Khan saheb’ for the most part will win this election with a tie score. bigger margin than the 46,842-vote lead he had over BJP rival Shiv Bahadur Saxena in 2017.

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Azam, the incumbent Lok Sabha MP from Rampur, a nine-term former legislator and founding member of the Samajwadi Party (SP) is currently being held in Sitapur prison, with no less than 87 FIRs pending against him; some 80 of them have testified during the last five years of BJP rule.

Azam’s campaign is led by his wife, Tazeen Fatima, and son, Abdullah Azam Khan, himself a PS candidate from neighboring Suar constituency, where he faces another descendant of Rampur’s royal family, Haider Ali Khan. , which features on a post from Apna Dal (Sonelal), a BJP ally. It comes to the only Muslim candidate in the fray through UP of the ruling Saffron coalition.

Helping the Khan family in this battle to keep Azam’s electoral legacy alive in Rampur has been Azam’s aide for nearly three decades, Asif.

Read also : Voting begins for phase 2 of the UP election, 586 candidates scrum

It is Asif who meticulously coordinates all electoral activities for supporters of Abdullah and Azam, manages appointments for the media and oversees all formalities related to the electoral code.

Abdullah Azam Khan (left) manages his father’s campaign and his own in these 2022 parliamentary elections in UP

Until recently, Abdullah was also incarcerated in Sitapur prison, the same prison where his father has been held for almost two years now, in connection with a case of faking his date of birth when he won the seat of Suar in 2017. He is accused of being under 25, the legal age to run at the polls. It is another matter that the election petition filed by Abdullah’s closest rival in the 2017 polls, Kazim Ali Khan alias BSP’s Naved Mian – now a Congress candidate against Azam in Rampur – has been settled in favor of this last.

Recently released on bail, Abdullah has the heavy task of supervising not only his election and that of his father, but he must ensure that the SP wins the five seats that fall in the district of Rampur. Three of them – Rampur, Suar and Chamraua – were won by the party in 2017, despite a wave of saffron across the UP, while the BJP won the remaining two seats from Bilaspur and Milak.

“There is no competition in Rampur; the UP election is for 402 not 403 seats… Khan saheb will win by a huge margin and even bay (Abdullah) will win a comfortable victory,” said Adil Hussain, who campaigns for Azam near the Jama Masjid in Rampur.

He added, “Khan saheb cannot campaign because BJP kept him in jail but we are all his foot soldiers, it is our responsibility to ensure his victory and we will not let him down…he has been a family elder; he took care of rampur like his own family…be it someone from royal family or BJP no one can stand before khan saheb in rampur.

On February 11, as Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Vijay Rath arrived in Rampur with Abdullah sharing space with the SP leader and waving to a massive crowd of supporters, a Congress employee campaigning for Congress candidate Kazim Ali Khan told the Federal: “hum log toh waqt zaaya kar rahe hain, jeetna toh inko hi hai (we’re wasting our time, Azam will win)”.

The worker, however, said the “fight in Rampur is between Darul Awaam (Azam’s office) and Noor Mahal (the royal residence of the Rampur Nawabs)…BJP has its pockets but its candidate is not fighting for reasons only he Can explain.”

The political rivalry between Azam and the Nawab family of Rampur dates back decades and the most recent elections – assembly or Lok Sabha – have seen a pitched battle between the two sides; Azam firmly with the SP and the Nawab family constantly changing political camps.

Read also : Will the repercussions of the hijab controversy be felt in the UP polls?

The political capital of the royal family of Rampur declined

Zulfiqar Ali Khan Bahadur, Kazim’s father, had served as a Congressman for Rampur for five terms between 1967 and 1989 before dying in an accident in 1992. Zulfiqar’s widow, Begum Noor Bano won the seat of Rampur Lok Sabha for Congress twice, in 1996 and 1999.

It is common knowledge in Rampur that Azam’s early electoral successes in the 1980s were largely due to his enjoying the patronage of Zulfiqar. However, over the next decade, no doubt due to dissenting political ambitions, Azam clashed with the royal family – a feud that only escalated after Zulfiqar’s sudden demise. However, over the years, as Azam’s hold on Rampur grew stronger, the political capital of Rampur’s royal family began to dwindle – in part due to the declining grip of Congress on the politics of the UP since 1989 and largely due to Kazim’s frequent changing political affiliations. Ali Khan.

Kazim, a five-term deputy, has been a member of Congress, the BSP and even the SP. Kazim’s son and Abdullah’s challenger to Suar, Haider or Hamza as he is popularly known, was declared Suar’s Congress candidate but a few days later he switched sides to the BJP and was aligned by the Apna Dal (S); a move many believe is aimed at pocketing more than 40% of Hindu votes in Suar.

Mohd Farrukh, a meat seller, told the Federal: “We have immense respect for the Rampur family. Before the 1980s (when Zulfiqar Bahadur was active in politics), all Rampur had was because of the Nawab family, but over the past three decades, it is Khan saheb who has done more for the people of Rampur than any other politician, be it Begum sahiba (Noor Bano), Naved Mian or Behenji (BSP supremo) Mayawati… BJP ki toh khair baat hi naa kijiye, woh Rampur ke liye kyun kuch karegi, yahaan toh Musalmaan abadi hai naa (ne talk about BJP, why do anything for Muslims in Rampur)…”

According to him, Khan saheb has built colleges, schools, hospitals… even if he is in prison, his family takes care of all of us; it does not discriminate between supporters of Congress or other parties.

Poverty, economic backwardness and poor civic infrastructure are visible throughout Rampur except when traveling near the majestic Bab-e-Nijat or Bab-e-Hayat gates which mark the entrance to Maulana Muhammad Ali University Jauhar built by Khan. Last year, the UP government reclaimed the 170 acres of land the university was built on and said it would rename the gates after war heroes and freedom fighters.

This move, coupled with the BJP, and in particular Yogi Adityanath’s frequent verbal assaults on Azam, arguably further bolstered public support for the Rampur MP.

For many in Rampur, Azam is a victim of the BJP and this election is a time to give the ruling party an appropriate response for targeting the man many consider to be the greatest Muslim leader in the UP.

“Khan saheb is in jail because the BJP is afraid of him…they don’t like him because he works for the upliftment of Muslims and can respond to the BJP in the same tone their leaders use,” Shahid Pasha, a weaver from Rampur’s main bazaar told the Federal.

Similar sentiments are shared by Azam supporters for Abdullah in Suar, although there is always a mention of the “life of privilege” enjoyed by Abdullah. “Bhai mei Khan saheb waali baat toh nahi hai… woh sahebzaade hain, lekin hain toh Khan saheb ke beast isliye vote toh unhe hi denge (Abdullah may not be like his father, he is privileged but we will still vote for him because he is the son of Azam),” a local trader told the Federal, on condition of anonymity.

Kazim Ali Khan, however, dismissed the assumption that Rampur and Suar will witness a no-contest and, just as passionately, pushed back against questions about him and his contesting son from different parties who represent two entirely different ideologies.

Kazim told the Federal: “Rampur is known for its cuisine, its culture, the Raza library and our syncretism. They are part of my family’s heritage. Azam Khan is a nine-term MP, but what has he done for the ordinary people of Rampur? his politics are divisive and regressive, he wins elections because he bullies people and after he wins he and his family only work for themselves…I am confident that the people of Rampur will keep all of this in mind. mind when they vote.

Furthermore, he said his son Haider’s decision to compete on an Apna Dal ticket under the BJP alliance is “Haider’s own” and does not affect the political credibility of the Rampur family or his own. prospects against Azam.

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