Azam Khan's fortress may have dents this time

Azam Khan's fortress may have dents this time

His critics may call it “fear”, while supporters would term it “popularity”. But in reality, firebrand Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan has made himself an unconquerable leader in Rampur.

Once famous for the Rampuri ‘chakus’ (knives), immortalised by Bollywood villains, the town has one famous name today — that of its eight-time MLA and Uttar Pradesh minister, Azam.

It is not difficult for a visitor to the town, located about 325 km from capital Lucknow, to notice the rapid and significant changes that have taken place over the past few years.

The town now boasts of wide metaled roads, a modern ‘mandi’ (market for farmers) and above all, the sprawling Mohammad Ali Jauhar University of which Azam, who is seeking re-election from here, is the head. The popular opinion is that Azam has done a lot for the constituency — where Muslims make up 55% of the population — to earn his re-election. “He does not face any serious challenge,” local journalist Mahendra Gupta told DH.

There was also a perceptible fear among the voters, who were less than forthcoming to discuss the elections. When pressed for comments, many preferred to remain anonymous.

“The development works is not without a cost,” said a tea stall owner at the town’s main market. “Roadside houses were flattened to widen the roads to Azam’s university. Anyone protesting was thrashed,” the stall owner said. 

The SP-Congress alliance has done more harm than good for Azam, who had a running feud with local Congress leader Begum Noor Bano, who wields considerable influence here.

Not surprisingly, local Congress leaders are backing BSP candidate Tanveer Ahmad Khan, who fought the 2012 elections on a Congress ticket. A doctor by profession, Tanveer enjoys support among the local Hindu community.

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