SUAR/RAMPUR(UP): A stadium spread over 15 acres is a source of pride for the people of Suar-Tanda. The stadium, which doubles up as a women’s healthcare centre, rests not just at the centre of the tiny constituency of 3.5 lakh people (65% Muslims). It is also the centre of poll campaigns of the heirs of two veteran political rivals — Rampur’s Nawab Kazim Ali Khan and its ‘other Nawab’ SP leader Azam Khan.
While Kazim Ali and Azam are fighting each other in neighbouring Rampur, their sons — Haider Ali and Abdullah Azam Khan — are fighting it out in Suar-Tanda. The constituency votes on February 14. Those in favour of Abdullah Azam, who made his political debut from this seat in 2017 and is again fighting on an SP ticket, say it was during SP’s tenure that Suar underwent a huge infrastructural transformation. Government schools were set up, a hospital was started, new drains were dug, other than the stadium.
Supporters of Haider Ali, NDA’s only Muslim candidate fielded by Apna Dal (S), say it was the Yogi government that constructed the stadium and started construction of the Lalpura bridge which connects this constituency with the city of Rampur. Satish Chand, 35, is a stationery shop owner in Badli village. “The BJP government has done a lot of development work in the state and if we bring them in power in this constituency, it will be good. The stadium has been built by the Yogi government”.
Mohammad Salman (name changed), who identifies himself as a transgender, is all praise for the Azam-Abdullah duo and points towards Nainital Road to assert that Suar is ahead of other constituencies in the neighbourhood in terms of infrastructure due to the work done by Azam Khan. “No work has been done in the last five years because Khan and Abdullah were in jail under false charges,” says Salman.
Supporters of Azam Khan and his son Abdullah swear allegiance to them for their help during the Covid crisis. Fahim Ahmad, a tent decorator, says, “Police did a lot of gundagardi during the lockdown. We were beaten up for no reason when we stepped out even to go to hospital. Azam Khan would listen to us when he was in power. He ruled our hearts. BJP doesn’t care about us.”
A senior UP government official, who is a local voter, said that while budget allocation for the stadium was done in 2017 during SP’s tenure, the amount was released in May 2018, when Yogi Adityanath was in power. He added that work on the bridge started in 2016 when SP was in power and stopped temporarily after the BJP government took over.
The 12km bridge is a lifeline for people of this constituency. Riyaz Ahmad, who runs a tool shop, said livelihoods were affected because of disruptions in the construction of the bridge. “Many from Rampur work with people in Suar for businesses like clothes, electronics. People from different parts of UP used to come here, but now those businesses have shut and consumers have opted for other cities.”
Om Prakash, caretaker of the stadium, feels BJP has not discriminated against Suar. He says everyone who needed was given free ration during the Covid crisis. Azam Khan, the MP from Rampur, has been in jail for two years. Abdullah is out on bail. Political observers say sympathy among locals towards Azam Khan gives an edge to Abdullah.