Uttar pradesh

The grand old man of SP bats for Hindu-Muslim unity in Nizamabad

Simple, sharp and straight forward, the 86-year-old MLA, the oldest legislator in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking a fifth term this time

Simple, sharp and straight forward, the 86-year-old MLA, the oldest legislator in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking a fifth term this time | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Ye kya Samajwadi Party ne jaahil bhar rakhe hain [has the SP inducted illiterates?],” chides Alambadi Azmi, as a party worker commits a mistake while writing the message, being dictated by Mr. Azmi for the electorate for the upcoming meeting of SP president Akhilesh Yadav in the Nizamabad constituency of Azamgarh.

Simple, sharp and straight forward, the 86-year-old MLA, the oldest legislator in Uttar Pradesh, is seeking a fifth term this time. Though he is hard on hearing, ask him if a politician has a retirement age, he quickly mentions Morarji Desai who became the Prime Minister when he was 82 and lived up to 96 years of age. “I have 10 more years to go,” said Mr. Azmi, whose thin frame barely hides his vast reserves of energy. “It is hard to keep pace with him during canvassing,” said Md. Ehasan, a young party worker. “He is an old school politician but his sane words still strike chord.” Ajay Prajapati, a BJP voter, said the old man was Chacha for everybody. “When he meets youngsters, he tells them to do namaste rather than shaking hands. During COVID, he was very active.”

When most contestants are working overtime, Mr. Azmi was at home; his solo Bolero was waiting outside. “I am with them through the year. It is time for them to make up their mind,” he said.

His associates said the only substantial amount he was spending was on holding the rally of Mr. Yadav.

A diploma holder, Mr. Azmi left his job in the irrigation department to join politics during the JP Movement. Old timers remember him working on his welding shop, his source of income after he left the job. After spending some time with Muslim Majlis, he was discovered by Mulayam Singh when he was looking for an honest face to foster the Muslim-Yadav bond in the region.

On the BJP using Azam Khan and Azamgarh to polarise the ongoing elections, Mr. Azmi said, “They can’t do anything. They are on the backfoot. Jo bechete the dawa-e-dil who dukan badha gaye [Those who raked up emotive issues, have shut shop],” he said.

Changing names of cities

Changing names of cities is the discretion of the government, “They changed Allahabad to Prayagraj, we said, hum Prayagraj kahenge. But by this action they have revealed themselves what they are.”

Mr. Azmi reminded how he told Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the Assembly that he was in a unique position as he wielded both the political and theological power. “History tells us that theological power drives the political power but Yogi chose to do otherwise. I told him ‘ Miyan, dharmik shakti ka prayog karo’. Had he done that he would have remembered that Asaf-ud Daulla [Nawab of Awadh] gave away 50 villages to Gorakhnath Mutt. Now, the boy whom he called Babua will make him repent.”

The SP MLA said he often spoke to the Muslim youth in the constituency that also houses Sarai Mir and Sanjarpur, towns that are described by the BJP as terror factories for many youths of the village have been allegedly found to be involved in terror activities. “I tell them if I am a Muslim and my actions are that of a devil, I will not go to the other world as a Muslim.”

‘Not lost hope’

Mr. Azmi said his only message for the Muslims was to embrace the Hindus. “They have no other option. No one is going to come and make another Taj Mahal for them. I am glad that the Muslims of west Uttar Pradesh rejected the idea of Asaduddin Owaisi.” He said when the Babri Masjid was demolished and Gujarat was pushed into flames in 2002, it was the Hindus who fought for them. “The Muslim leaders could only issue press releases in newspapers. The Hindu of India hasn’t changed his secular character. I have not lost hope in my Hindu brothers.”

He didn’t make much of the supposed distancing of Mr. Akhilesh Yadav from Muslims in the current elections. “Compassion is not shown, it is lived. He described the Citizenship Amendment Act as unconstitutional. It was the women of Samajwadi Party that led the protest against the CAA in Lucknow. He sent money to those who died during the protest,” Mr. Azmi said.

The grit of Yadavs

Mr. Yadav is often charged for being casteist but Mr Azmi, who is up against three Yadav candidates, felt Yadavs rose because of their grit. “I have lived among them. When I first became MLA in 1996, I used to return by bus from Lucknow early in the morning. I could see Yadav boys running in the fields to prepare themselves for the forces. And when I knocked at my door, I would see Muslim youth in quilts.” Recently, he said, he saw a young graduate Yadav girl carrying cow dung on her head. “It says something about the state of unemployment but it also tells us about the community that doesn’t get disillusioned easily.”

On why he didn’t accept ministership despite repeated requests, “For some, vidhayki [member of Assembly] is a fashion, for some it is a matter of ideology. For me, it has a spiritual value. God has asked his people who to pray and work to make life better of his people. There can’t be bigger opportunity to work for the people than being a member of parliament. For me, it is like a prayer.”

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2022 10:11:25 am | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/the-grand-old-man-of-sp-bats-for-hindu-muslim-unity-in-nizamabad/article65187953.ece