UP minister's bastion could be upset with him

UP minister's bastion could be upset with him

The imposing gates of Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar University, a brainchild of controversial Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan, bears testimony to his ‘iron grip’ over the constituency. But  voters here might have other ideas this time around.

“Rampur Azam Khan ki milkiyat ho sakti hai par votes unke nahin hain,” says Alam Khan, who runs a small tea stall not very far from Jauhar varsity (Rampur may be Azam Khan’s fiefdom but votes are not).

Alam is angry with Azam Khan for not doing anything for the constituency despite being a five-time MLA. He was upset mainly because his earlier shop had been demolished by officials along with hundreds of other shops and houses to widen the road that leads to the Jauhar university, where Azam Khan is the chancellor.

Many others also echo similar sentiments. The roads near Milak in the constituency are testimony to the neglect of the area. “Azam Khan has incurred the wrath of the local people for the demolition drive,” says Sumit Tyagi, who operates a hotel in the town. He said that in the name of development, the ‘Nawabi Gate’, which had been built by the nawab of Rampur, was also demolished. “Rampur used to be identified by the gate,” he added.

Two days ago, the Election Commission (EC) banned Azam Khan from campaigning following controversial remarks by him, yet his presence could be felt here. It is as if Azam's ghost is running the show. For the record, his relative Nasir Ahmed Khan, also of the Samajwadi Party (SP), is contesting the polls from here.

Azam’s influence over Rampur is palpable, even to a visitor. He was seen moving in a five-car convoy, with rifle-wielding cops and scores of SP leaders, despite cases being registered against him in Rampur and Ghaziabad on the EC’s orders.

Discontent appears to be growing in the constituency and the firebrand SP leader's fort may no longer be impenetrable. Mahendra Gupta, a 70-year-old scribe, says people are angry with Azam and it may cost him dearly. “Azam’s prestige is at stake here. A loss for Nasir Ahmed will be a loss of Azam,” he told Deccan Herald.

Though BSP and BJP have also fielded their nominees from here, there seems to be a direct fight between the SP and Congress nominee Kazi Ali Khan alias Naved Mian, a member of the erstwhile nawabi family of Rampur.

BJP's Nepal Singh, a former UP minister, is banking on a division of Muslim votes, which form around 49 per cent of the total votes here. BSP’s Haji Akbar Hussain and Aam Aadmi Party’s Salman Ali are also banking on Muslim support.

In a strange way, Azam Khan’s political future rests on the Rampur seat. His clout in the SP will be weakened considerably if his nominee loses here.

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