Although he emerged as the Opposition’s face in Uttar Pradesh in the wake of the recent Assembly elections, Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav recently drew criticism from a party section over his alleged silence on Muslim issues.
Significantly, the dissenting voice has emerged from the camp of the SP’s prominent Muslim leader Azam Khan, who has been in jail for over two years. Azam won the Rampur seat in the Assembly polls by 65,300 votes, while his son Abdullah clinched the neighboring Suar constituency with a margin of 61,100 votes.
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In the newly constituted, 18th UP Assembly, the number of Muslim MLAs is more than the previous figure, a majority of whom are from the SP. The polls also saw the SP garnering a majority of the Muslim community votes, which damaged the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) ‘s prospects.
Firing salvos at Akhilesh at an SP meeting in Rampur Sunday, Azam’s media in-charge Fasahat Ali Khan alias Shanu said, while the party has won 111 seats in the polls, thanks to the Muslim vote, the party chief “keeps mum when under the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government FIRs are lodged against Muslims, their properties are attached and recoveries are carried out from them ”.
Sharpening his attack on Akhilesh, Khan even told the meeting, sarcastically, that “our kapdon badbu aati hai hamare rashtriya adhyaksh ji ko (our party president feels our clothes stink)”. He said Akhilesh and his father (Mulayam Singh Yadav) became CMs with the help of the Muslim votes, but Azam was not considered for the post of Leader of the Opposition in the current Assembly.
Alleging that the SP did not get votes of Akhilesh’s own caste (Yadav community), Khan said, “You are our enemy from BJP. Saja sirf humko milegi, maje sirf aap lenge. (You made us fall out with BJP. Only we will be punished, but you will always relish power). “
Hitting out at the party president, Azam’s media in-charge also alleged: “He (Akhilesh) gave a speech in the Assembly but did not mention the name of Azam saheb even once… Akhilesh has met Azam in jail only once so far. Should we accept what chief minister Yogi Adityanath had alleged that Akhilesh Yadav himself does not want Azam Khan out (of jail). “
Khan also said he would suggest Azam to take a “decision”. Elaborating on his point, he later told The Indian Express that he would advise Azam to quit the SP. “Azam saheb had resigned from Lok Sabha so that he can raise the voice of people in the UP Vidhan Sabha. But the party did not make him Leader of the Opposition, ”Khan said.
Former minister Azam Khan has been lodged in the Sitapur district jail in connection with a number of cases.
Khan’s attack on Akhilesh came a day after the party’s Sambhal MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq reportedly lashed out at the party for allegedly not “working for Muslims”.
Brushing aside Khan’s allegations, SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said, “Party does not agree with what he (Khan) has said. Party and our national president respect Azam Khan saheb and he (Akhilesh) is concerned about him. There are legal hurdles in his release. ” Chaudhary also said he was not aware who was Azam’s “media in-charge”, adding that “such claims do not damage SP”.
In its assessment of the election results, the BSP has found that the Muslim vote went to the SP along with their traditional Yadav vote, but it still remained far away from the majority mark.