Samajwadi Party's Azam Khan (File Photo | PTI)
Samajwadi Party's Azam Khan (File Photo | PTI)

Azam Khan refuses to meet UP Congress chief Ajai Rai on pretext of jail manual

It may be recalled that Azam Khan along with their wife Tazeen Fatima and son Abdullah Azam Khan was sentenced to a 7-year jail term in a birth certificate forgery case.

LUCKNOW: The plan of Congress leadership in Uttar Pradesh to bat for the beleaguered Samajwadi Party leader and the most visible Muslim face in the UP political arena --Azam Khan -- lodged in Sitapur district jail, in a bid to reconnect with Muslims, came a cropper when the SP stalwart refused to meet UP CongressCommittee chief Ajai Rai on Thursday.

Rai, along with two local Congress leaders of Sitapur, had the plan to meet Azam Khan in jail on Thursday to be seen as raising the issue of alleged injustice under the BJP rule to the most Muslim community which backed it until when Congress last ruled UP. However, Azam Khan, serving a 7-year jail sentence in connection with the case of forgery, refused to meet Ajay Rai, citing the limit on the number of visitors in Sitapur jail as per the jail manual.

As per the jail officials, prisoners could be visited by people twice in 15 days, and Azam Khan had told them that he would only meet family members and no one else. According to Sitapur Jail Superintendent, Suresh Kumar Singh, an inmate is allowed to meet sets of visitors every fortnight.

“Azam Khan has already used up one visit for the current 15-day period, and he has expressed his wish to meet family members for the second visit. We have conveyed this to the CongressSitapur district president,” said the jail superintendent.

It may be recalled that Azam Khan along with their wife Tazeen Fatima and son Abdullah Azam Khan was sentenced to a 7-year jail term in a birth certificate forgery case. While Azam is lodged in Sitapur district jail, his son Abdullah is in Hardoijail and his wife Tazeen Fatima is lodged in Rampur jail.UPCC chief Ajai Rai had announced on Wednesday that he would lead a party delegation to Sitapur jail to meet the former MP from Rampur on Thursday.

“We will fight for Azam Khan sahib. He may be with SP but we will bat for him,” said UP Congress chief Ajay Rai.

“We will discuss growing atrocities against Muslims, including that of Azam Khan sahib under BJP rule at the forthcoming meeting of the party’s minority committee in November,” UP Congress’s minority wing chief Shahnawaz Alam said.

Congress’s Muslim outreach bid has come at a time when it is on a collision course with the Samajwadi Party over a failed seat-sharing arrangement in poll Madhya Pradesh. However, Ajai Rai feels that the decision to meet Azam Khan should not irk the SP leadership as Congress and SP are allies.

“This is a good thing for the INDIA alliance,” the UPCC chief had said adding that he did not know why Akhilesh Yadav had not met Azam Khan so far. On the other, seemingly upset over the UPCC chief’s plan to meet Azam Khan in jail Akhilesh Yadav said, “There is no harm in meeting Azam Saheb.

In fact, everyone should meet him but where were the Congress when he was being framed? Even Congress leaders were busy framing him.”However, political experts opine that the Congress plan to meet Azam Khan was more of a desperate effort on the part of the grand old party to woo the Muslim community which had gravitated to the SP since its inception in 1992.

By taking up his case, the Congress is subtly attempting to indicate to minorities that it is willing to raise its voice for all those who feel exploited under BJP, across party lines – a gesture driven by the realisation that to reclaim its lost glory, it will have to win back its lost voter base in UP. As per the Congress insiders, the party is set to launch a campaign to connect with Muslims as part of which it would also hold meetings with small groups of Muslims from December onwards.

In western UP, where Azam Khan once ruled the roost, several Muslim leaders of influence have either joined the Congress or are tipped to cross over after the results of the assembly elections in five states are out in December. Congress leaders feel that siding with Azam Khan could help them connect with Muslim-majority Rampur as well as nearby regions of Sambhal and Moradabad.

In the 2022 UP polls, one where Azam didn’t campaign as he was in jail due to a series of cases registered against him, Muslims backed the SP in a big way. Of the 34 Muslim lawmakers, 32, including Azam and his son Abdullah, had won on SPticket and two on SP ally Rashtriya Lok Dal’s symbol, the majority of them from West UP.

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