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Azam Khan is SP's Muslim face. But are his days in the party over?

Rohit Ghosh | Updated on: 19 November 2015, 11:31 IST
QUICK PILL

Heard on the street

  • Buzz is Azam Khan and SP may part ways
  • Khan has run into trouble with SP leadership quite often

Read the signals

  • The senior minister has been absent from Cabinet meets
  • Mulayam is again seen with Khan\'s bete noire Amar Singh

More in the story

  • What is Khan\'s future with the SP?
  • Does he have any other option?

The Uttar Pradesh government was hit out of the blue on Diwali eve when the social media went abuzz that Cabinet Azam Khan had resigned. And the strongman from Rampur was in no hurry to clear the air.

The evening before Diwali, Khan was leaving Lucknow for his home in Rampur, also his constituency. When reporters approached him with the 'news' of his resignation, Khan said: "I will tell at the appropriate time."

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Political pundits in Uttar Pradesh, however, will not be surprised if Khan leaves Samajwadi Party (SP), or if he is removed from the party by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Khan has courted controversies ever since SP won a majority in the state in March 2012. One of the founding members of the party, Khan was against Mulayam Singh Yadav's decision to make his son the CM.

The day he was sworn in as minister, he read only half the text of the oath. Another ceremony had to be organised later for him to complete his oath, following a court directive.

In between the ceremonies, Khan refused his ministerial perks, embarrassing the government. He was given the charge of urban development, youth welfare and minorities affairs ministries.

In its manifesto, the SP had promised several sops. Keeping those in mind, when Yadav brought in schemes for free laptops and bicycles for students, Khan wanted the sops to be restricted to Muslim students. Yadav had to veto him on that.

'Azam Khan must realise he has few options other than the SP'

Khan took to tantrums and stayed away from important meetings of the Cabinet and the party. In July, 2012, barely five months after the formation of the government, he was removed as in-charge of the party in Meerut.

Shahid Manzoor, another minister and the SP's MLA from Meerut, had allegedly complained against to the CM that he was being ignored by Khan in matters related to Meerut's development.

Khan retaliated by writing a letter to Akhilesh saying he be divested of the charge other districts as well and, if the CM felt that he was a burden on the government, he be sacked from the ministry as well. Khan was the party in-charge of Muzaffarnagar and Ghaziabad districts apart from Meerut.

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The SP generally has had a tough time with Khan whenever the party tried promoting any other Muslim leader.

When Mulayam was seen to be close to Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid, Khan said simply sporting a beard doesn't make one a true Muslim. When Akhilesh patronised health minister Ahmed Hasan, Khan called the department's principal secretary Pravir Kumar "anti-Muslim".

Post-Muzaffarnagar riots, the SP reportedly seriously contemplated showing Khan the door. When the party was already under attack for failing to control the riots, Khan criticised it for the riots in which 60 were killed and thousands displaced.

Not that Khan has been with the SP throughout. He was expelled from the party in 2009 after he became upset over Mulayam's proximity with Amar Singh and the induction of former CM Kalyan Singh into the party. Kalyan has been widely panned for his role during the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

'Azam Khan is close to Mulayam. But soon Akhilesh will take over'

Amar, later fell out with the party leadership and quit the SP. But in August last year, after four years, Mulayam and Amar shared the stage while inaugurating a park dedicated to senior party leader Janeshwar Mishra in Lucknow.

In the last year or so, Mulayam has been publicly meeting Amar, Khan's bete noire, who has also criticised Khan.

In turn Khan stayed away from a recent Cabinet reshuffle, angry apparently on not being consulted. Reportedly, his opponents in the party were given Cabinet berths. Even Madan Chauhan, a Thakur leader considered close to Amar Singh, was made a minister.

"Azam Khan must realise that he is close to Mulayam, not Akhilesh. In the days to come, Akhilesh will have full control over the party and the government. Khan must now be aware of his position," an SP leader told Catch.

Khan wants to assert his importance, but he must realise the SP is his only resort, said SK Dwivedi, a Lucknow-based political analyst.

"Azam Khan wants to be the only Muslim face of the party. But Akhilesh has started promoting others. Khan must understand or follow the diktats of Akhilesh or he will be in trouble."

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First published: 19 November 2015, 11:31 IST
 
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