Uttar Pradesh 2017

Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections: Azam Khan is fighting me, says Tanveer Khan

A combo picture of BSP candidate from Rampur Assembly constituency Tanveer Khan (L) and Samajwadi Party candidate Azam Khan, during their campaigns at Kanshiram colony, in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

A golf-cap covers his head. Dressed in neat white shirt and black half jacket, Tanveer Khan, a prominent doctor, is lost in the crowd of supporters, as he walks through the inside lanes of the Kanshi Ram colony — a cluster of bright green buildings built by the government to house the poor on the outskirts on Rampur.

While Mr. Tanveer Khan goes door-to-door, listening to grievances of locals, mostly Dalits and pasmanda Muslims, his supporters distribute a four-page pamphlet. Three out of the four pages of the appeal — printed in the BSP’s blue — are spattered with graphic images of hapless women and children looking on as the administration bulldozes their shanties; the remains of a graveyard (in the compound of a prominent local madrasa) demolished by the State; visuals of human bones that were brought up to the surface by the demolition; damaged shrines and pictures of Mr. Tanveer Khan being arrested and facing a lathi charge for his campaign against the administration’s anti-encroachment drive.

The target of his emotive appeal is none other than the incumbent MLA, Urban Development Minister Mohammad Mr. Azam Khan. The task is daunting, as Mr. Azam Khan has ruled over Rampur for much of the last four decades. But Mr. Tanveer Khan puts up a brave front. “Azam Khan is fighting me, I am not fighting him,” comes his quick reply when asked about his prospects.

Mr. Tanveer Khan’s appeal to voters is hinged on two planks: the emotional, as illustrated in the pamphlet and development and livelihood. If Mr. Tanveer Khan says that Mr. Azam Khan, who has won from Rampur eight times, behaves like a dictator, unleashing vendetta on those opposed to him, in the same breath he accuses the Minister of ruining the economy of Rampur and favouring only those in his coterie.

“Our fight is against the zulm (oppression) and terror of Azam Khan. Forty colonies of poor people were destroyed by him, poor vendors and shopkeepers forcefully evicted. People are fed up of his dictatorial style,” he says.

He blames Mr. Azam Khan for the decay of Rampur’s once-lucrative small scale industries, shutting down of the sugarcane mills and exit of popular fan manufacturing companies from the city.

If Mr. Tanveer Khan was trying to make the most of every minute on Tuesday, a day before Rampur voted on Wednesday, the scene a few kilometres away in the tidy locality adjoining the Rampur jail was relaxed. Mr. Azam Khan lives here — a slight lane cutting past the doorway of the Mumtaz Park, named after his father, leads you to his residence. Eager supporters wait outside, as influential locals and aides trickle in. The Minister is seated on a cushioned chair.

“When he lost the last time, he went mad and shot his pet dog,” Mr. Azam Khan says dismissing Mr. Tanveer Khan’s threat. In 2012, Mr. Tanveer Khan, fighting as a Congress candidate, had stood second, but lost by a huge margin of more than 60,000 votes.

The leader maintains that he has done enough development in his bastion to merit another term. “The amount of money pumped into Rampur by the government, you can make three new cities out if it,” he says, listing the various infrastructural projects completed by him.

Among them, feature his pet project — the 350-acre expansive Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, which not only boasts of the highest national flag hoisted in U.P., but also houses a replica of Raisina Hill, while having enclaves named after Oxford and Nalanda. Then there is a medical college, four schools, new roads, markets and swanky malls, prominent among them the Tipu Sultan market and Bapu Mall, the Gandhi smarak, Mumtaz Central Library, 3000 homes built under Aasra Yojana for migrant labourers, and the numerous parks.

When showed the BSP’s pamphlet, Mr. Azam Khan quickly summons an aide, who brings his counter to Mr. Tanveer Khan’s allegations. “An appeal against lies, a message of truth,” the plea signed by the candidate himself, is a point-by-point rebuttal of the BSP candidate’s campaign. In it, the SP leader accuses his lesser-known opponent of “distorting facts” to mislead people through “disgraceful manipulation of emotions.”

“The land of the graveyard was in ruins and had become a den for drunkards, gambling and all other kinds of illegal acts. We re-constructed and beautified it. What wrong did I do?” asks Mr. Azam Khan.

While Mr. Azam Khan’s infrastructural development, especially the decent power supply the city gets, were praised, youth in the constituency are disgruntled with him for failing to provide them employment opportunities. This has given hope to the BSP and BJP — which has fielded Shiv Bahadur Saxena — who are trying to cash in on this disenchantment.

Roshan completed his B. Com a few years ago, but is still jobless. He voted for Mr. Azam Khan last time but this time insists on a “change.” “Azam helps and employs illiterate people close to him to plum posts, while educated people like me are without work. I fill forms, but nothing comes out of it. Rampur needs industries, but Azam has not done anything for it,” says Mr. Roshan, who assists his father in his photostat shop. He supports the BJP.

When asked about it, Mr. Azam Khan says he created new jobs by distributing free e-rickshaws, and argues that the floating population that would come to Rampur due to its new-built infrastructure would create more bustle.

“Earlier young men looking for brides were rejected when they were found to be driving rickshaws. With the e-richshaw, they have some status now,” he says.

Mohit Jindal, an unemployed youth living in Rajdwaara Road, however says that is not enough. “Mantriji does not do anything for jobs apart from giving out e-richshaws. Will graduates like me drive rickshaws? We cannot eat beautiful roads and gates!”

“You [Azam] were in power for five years, what did you do? Couldn’t you bring up three-four industries?” asks Irfan Khan, an unemployed youth, adding that his vote would go to the BSP this time.

In response, Mr. Azam Khan mentions the various markets that have come up in Rampur over the last two-three years as part of his re-development drive. “These markets are equal to industries. To set up industries in Rampur, an urban area, I would have had to demolish a few colonies. How could I do that? The youth also wants computer knowledge. How many will a factory employ?”

The Minister also said that he had set up two sugarcane mills in Tanda, but they were forced to shut due to poor supply of sugarcane.

While Mr. Azam Khan continues to receive huge support in his bastion, cutting across communities, his opponents are banking on a sentiment for change among a section of locals to dethrone him.

Local scribes say that in the last four or five days prior to polling, Mr. Tanveer Khan has closed the gap and Mr. Azam Khan is on the defensive. “Azam is known for his offensive rhetoric, but in his recent meetings he was seen shielding himself. Tanveer is banking on the sympathy factor,” said an Urdu reporter.

Mr. Azam Khan has had a stranglehold grip over the seat. After losing in his first attempt in 1977, he secured his maiden victory in 1980, going on to win eight times. The only other time he lost was in 1996. In 2012, he recorded his best ever performance, securing a massive 55% support (95,772 votes).

While the BSP is confident of scripting an upset in Rampur, for Azam loyalists like Salim Khan, a restaurant owner, the fight is only about the margin of victory. “Every year they spread this rumour that Azam Khan is losing. But he always wins. Only those whose illegal encroachments were destroyed are upset with him. The general public is happy. He will win by a bumper margin, you will see.”

Another supporter, a fruit-seller, praises Mr. Azam Khan for building new roads and changing the landscape of the Rohilkhand city. “Even in a family, you cannot keep all members happy. Whatever development done here is due to Azam Khan sahab,” said the vendor.

But Shanu Khan, a former aide turned embittered foe, accuses Mr. Azam Khan of arrogance and abandoning people who serve him. He is now working hard to ensure his defeat.

In the last elections, Mr. Tanveer Khan, who fought as a Congress candidate, had secured 32,197 votes against Mr. Azam Khan’s 95,306. While the BSP candidate had touched 16,000, the BJP’s candidate got less than 10,000.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 9:05:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-2017/Uttar-Pradesh-Assembly-elections-Azam-Khan-is-fighting-me-says-Tanveer-Khan/article17314497.ece

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