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Uttar Pradesh elections: Azam’s son faces BSP Nawab and prospect of divided vote

Abdullah Azam Khan, son of Azam Khan, is making his election debut from Suar, one of the five constituencies in Rampur district.

Written by Ishita Mishra | Suar-tanda |
February 13, 2017 1:36:41 am
azam kahn, uttar pradesh elections 2017, up polls 2017, azam khan son, samajwadi party, abdullah azam khan, suar elections, rampur elections, up election campaign, SP congress alliance, rahul akhilesh alliance, indian express news, india news, elections updates Abdullah Azam Khan on campaign; photo taken from his Facebook page.

A white SUV stops in front of a two-storey, partly constructed house on Dadiyal Road in Tanda, some 20 km from Rampur. Owned by a Samajwadi Party worker, Mohammad Shamim, it serves as the party’s local office.

From the vehicle steps out a young man in a white kurta-pyjama and Nehru jacket. Abdullah Azam Khan, 26, son of Azam Khan, is making his election debut from Suar, one of the five constituencies in Rampur district.

Accompanied by an armed police guard in plainclothes, Abdullah enters the office. He greets everyone and appears at ease as he answers the media’s questions on his father’s controversial statements, on the SP-Congress alliance, and on his BSP rival, four-time sitting MLA Nawab Kazim Ali Khan.

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“No one has seen him here in Suar-Tanda,” Abdullah says of his opponent. He claims both Hindus and Muslims are behind him, because of the work done by his father.

A day earlier, Akhilesh Yadav has given him a boost by saying at a rally that he will adopt the constituency if people vote for Abdullah. The chief minister also promised he would start his SP pension scheme from Suar-Tanda if his government is re-elected.

Abdullah steps out to campaign, starting in a mosque. He carries a mike. He tells people of what the SP has done for the constituency, even when the MLA is of the BSP.

“Inki awaz waise to tez hai. Magar mike pakadte hi apne qalid ke jaise awaz ho jati hai. Vote to Azam ko hi jayenge,” says Abdul Hamid, 70, sitting next to Abdullah.

Talking to The Indian Express, Abdullah says he could have opted for any “easy” seat but Suar was chosen “on public demand”. “The people of Suar requested my father to contest the election from here. As he couldn’t, I am fulfilling their dream. I am happy to have got overwhelming support from all, Hindu or Muslim.”

Abdullah says Swar remains one of the backward constituencies. “No candidate was interested in contesting from here, but I took it as a challenge and will create a record by defeating the Nawab,” he says.

At his second gathering at the house of rice mill owner Haaji Shakeel, Abdullah urges people to stop talking so that he can get in a word. “Ekdum Azam Khan ki tarah,” notes Faheem, a voter.

“Tum 20 saalo se jo jhelte aa rahe ho, wo dohrana hai ya ek naya savera lana hai. Ye ab tumhe tai karna hai. Tum jo bhi karoge, Azam or Abdullah tumhare sath hai,” Abdullah says.

Abdullah campaigns from 8 am till 2 am, his last address at the house of Haji Rashid, owner of another rice mill. He waves to women voters as they stand in queue to click a picture with him. Here, he speaks of his father’s work on roads and development while the MLA has been “busy in London”.

Suar’s voters comprise roughly 60 per cent Muslims and 40 per cent Hindus. Mohammad Ali, who sells tea at the shop near the SP office, says the fight between the SP and the BSP will be close. He claims he will vote for Azam’s son but adds his cousins prefer Kazim Ali Khan.

On the other side of the SP office, it is Sunil who sells tea. Here, a group of youths discuss how BJP candidate Lakshmi Saini will gain as the two prominent Muslim candidates will end up dividing the community’s votes.

A rally by Kazim Ali in Tanda Sunday draws a huge crowd.

“Tooti kamaan ke teen teer, Azam, Abdullah aur Naseer,” says Kazim, who accuses Azam Khan of demolishing graveyards, madrasas and the houses of poor Muslims in Rampur.

Kazim’s son Haider Ali Khan claims that his father has the support of both Dalits and Muslims, especially in rural areas.

At the busy market in Tanda town, five jewellery shops stand next to one another. All have Hindu owners. At Vishnu Kumar Jewellers, the owner says he will vote for the BJP, and not because of the candidate.

“Hum to phool or Modi ko vote karenge,” echoes Avtar Agarwal, owner of Avtar Jewellers. Speaking of law and order, he says, “My daughter cannot move out after sunset.”

Mohammad Ahmed, who has bought a pair of earrings, smiles. “Even I want the BJP to come to power this time. I want to see what they will do.” But will he vote for the BJP? “No,” he says, “I will vote for Kazim.”

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