LUCKNOW: A day after Samajwadi Party stalwart and Rampur MP Azam Khan’s arrest in a case of graft and forgery, SP chief and former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav reached Sitapur district jail with a heavy entourage to meet him on Thursday morning. Azam Khan was arrested along with his MLA wife Tazeen Fatima and son Mohd Abdullah Azam after the rejection of their bail applications in a case related to forgery of age-proof documents of Abdullah Azam by a Rampur court on Wednesday.
All three were sent first to Rampur district jail and then shifted to Sitapur district jail in the wee hours on Thursday. They will remain in judicial custody till March 2, the next date of hearing.
While coming out of the Sitapur jail after meeting Azam Khan for about 45 minutes, SP chief reiterated that it was nothing but a “political conspiracy”. He claimed that the BJP government was practising the politics of vendetta and was out to tarnish the image of SP stalwart. “We have full faith in the judiciary. We hope Azam Sahab will get justice from the court. His wife is not well right now,” said Akhilesh while interacting with the media.
Azam Khan has been a prominent Muslim face of the Samajwadi Party with a definitive sway on the minority community not only in Rampur but across the state. The ascendance of Azam Khan to the political arena in the 1990s changed the flavour of politics in Rampur. The lawyer-turned-politician was among the founders of the SP along with Mulayam Singh Yadav. Azam Khan has represented Rampur nine times in the UP Assembly since 1980.
At a time when Akhilesh Yadav is preparing for the battle of 2022, Azam Khan’s legal battles are bound to not only dent his personal image and political stature but also weaken the hand of the SP chief.
Though Azam Khan carries the image of being a motormouth whose controversial statements have ruffled many a feather every now and then, he is still credited with weaving a strong Muslim support base for the SP.
Further, Azam Khan has been the only warhorse standing by the SP chief, who is still grappling with bickering in the family as his uncle Shivpal has already parted ways and father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s old age has made him politically defunct. SP Rajya Sabha member and Akhilesh’s political advisor Ram Gopal Yadav, too, is out of action for reasons unknown.
In such a scenario, if Azam Khan continues to remain away from the scene for long owing to the cases he is facing, it will be difficult for the SP to maintain the traditional hold over its Muslim support base which has already drifted to other players in recent times. Moreover, the emergence of Congress General
Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on the political horizon of UP may fill that gap for the minorities.