No fight, only differences over certain issues: Rampur MLA

Azam Khan on Saturday rejoined the Samajwadi Party in the presence of its leader Mulayam Singh, but refused to accept the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha. The position was offered to him by Mr. Mulayam Singh's brother and Leader of Opposition, Shivpal Singh Yadav.

A meeting of the party MPs, MLAs and other office-bearers had been convened by Mr. Mulayam Singh here to mark Mr. Khan's return after an 18-month hiatus. In fact, Mr. Khan arrived at the venue with the SP president.

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Khan said Mr. Mulayam Singh was always his leader, even during the phase of his estrangement with the SP chief. “There was no fight between us, only differences over certain issues.”

On his estrangement with the SP chief, and without naming the former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kalyan Singh and the expelled SP leader Amar Singh, Mr. Khan said he could not believe that Mr. Mulayam Singh could commit the mistake (of allying with Mr. Kalyan Singh). But his expressing regret enhanced his prestige.

In a veiled reference to Mr. Amar Singh, the Rampur MLA mocked the Lok Manch convener's present political status.

Even as he welcomed Mr. Khan back into the SP fold, Mr. Mulayam Singh reminded him of the harm his rebellion had caused to the party in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. “Had Mr. Khan not rebelled, the SP would have won at least 35 seats,” the party chief said, implying that the loss of Muslim vote proved disastrous.

“Perform or perish”

Describing Mr. Khan as a founder-member of the SP and comrade-in-arms, Mr. Mulayam Singh said he would be involved in finalising party the strategy for the 2012 Assembly elections. The workers and leaders should perform or perish, as in the “next elections, the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party would be locked in a straight fight.” Groupism and infighting would not be tolerated, Mr. Singh said.