Delayed flight, conspiracy thicken UP political plot 

This is how the plot unfolded.
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 23:56 IST
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 23:56 IST

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Rampur/Moradabad: Palace politics, intrigue, a delayed chartered flight and conspiracy theories — the battle for the twin Lok Sabha seats of Rampur-Moradabad in Western Uttar Pradesh has all the makings of a political thriller.

This is how the plot unfolded. 

On the last day of filing of nomination papers for the first phase of UP polls, a chartered plane with Samajwadi Party state president Naresh Uttam took off from Lucknow’s Chaudhary Charan Singh airport with two authorisation letters for the allocation of party symbols for Rampur and Moradabad. It landed at the Moodha Pandey airstrip which is equidistant from Moradabad and Rampur — about 10 km each. Waiting at the collectorate in Rampur and Moradabad were ticket aspirants.

The emissaries rushed to hand over the necessary papers to Mohibullah Nadvi. The Imam of the Parliament Street Masjid in Delhi was the party's official candidate from Rampur.

In nominating Nadvi, a rank outsider, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had ticked off Azam Khan whose trusted aide Asim Raja, too, had filed papers.

In March-end, when Akhilesh Yadav had gone to meet Khan at the Sitapur jail — where he had been lodged after being convicted in a forgery case — the latter had strongly suggested that the SP president enter the electoral fray from Rampur. Akhilesh had instead asserted his position to nominate Nadvi.

But one man's gain spelled disaster for the other.

The emissaries who carried symbol allocation forms could not reach the Moradabad candidate and sitting MP ST Hasan on time.

"The time for nomination ends at 3 pm and at two minutes past 3, I get a WhatsApp message to come and collect the papers from Rampur,” claims a visibly upset Hasan.

As a result, Ruchi Veera, a close confidante of Azam Khan, whose name was earlier announced by the SP in place of Hasan, is now the official party nominee by default.

Hasan's supporters see a conspiracy in this mix-up but refrain from taking names.

Khan's shadow

Though he is behind bars, Khan’s shadow continues to loom large over a dozen seats in the region with a substantial Muslim population, including Rampur and Moradabad where it is estimated to be more than 50 per cent.  

A close confidante of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Khan has been a founding member of the SP and its Muslim face who has influenced ticket distribution in minority-dominated seats including his pocket borough in Rampur and Moradabad.

In the first LS polls in 1952, the Rampur seat was won by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Later the erstwhile Nawab of Rampur Mikki Mian was elected on a Congress ticket. His wife Noor Bano has also been an LS MP. Noor Mahal, or the sprawling abode of the Nawabs on Civil Lines, continues to influence local politics.

The hegemony of the Nawabs was later challenged by Azam Khan who emerged as the leader of the masses against the royalty. Over the years, as his stature grew, a strong anti-Azam Khan lobby too evolved in the region across religious lines.

"This election is reminiscent of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when actress Jaya Prada, riled by Azam Khan, won from Rampur by taking an anti-Azam stand,” says a local journalist who did not want to be identified.

"The people of Rampur are with the I.N.D.I.A alliance. Azam Khan won this seat once by fluke," says veteran Congress leader Motiur Rehman Babloo.

Taking a leaf out of Jaya Prada’s book, Nadvi is carefully trying to emerge as a consensus candidate for all anti-Azam Khan lobbies, including the palace — Noor Mahal.

"I pray for those who are in trouble," Nadvi says on being asked whether he would seek Azam Khan’s blessings.

From Rampur, the BJP has fielded its sitting MP GS Lodhi, who won from here in a bye-poll that was necessitated after Azam Khan vacated the seat on being elected to the state Assembly in 2022. 

While in Moradabad, as ST Hasan sulks, Ruchi Veera continues with her campaign, with Akhilesh Yadav also holding a rally in her support on Saturday. 

Published 14 April 2024, 23:56 IST

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