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U.P. Assembly elections | BJP ally fields Muslim candidate in Rampur, re-run of Azam vs Nawab family tussle

BJP on January 19, 2022, formally announced its alliance with the Apna Dal and Nishad Party for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls.
Omar RashidJanuary 23, 2022 18:52 IST
Updated: January 23, 2022 19:35 IST

The community make up over 40% of the population in the constituency

The BJP’s ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) on Sunday announced it was fielding Haider Ali Khan of the erstwhile Nawab royalty of Rampur as its candidate in the Suar constituency of Rampur in western Uttar Pradesh.

Mr. Haider Khan, who turns 31 in March, was recently declared the Congress candidate from the seat. His nomination by the Apna Dal (S) headed by Union Minister Anupriya Patel is the first instance in recent times when a BJP-led alliance in the State has fielded a Muslim.

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Mr. Haider Khan, a Shia, joined the Apna Dal in the presence of Ms. Patel in Delhi. What stands out is that the Apna Dal, which commands support among the Kurmi OBC caste, and is popular in the Mizrapur-Prayagraj-Varanasi belt of East UP, has fielded a candidate in west U.P.’s Rohilkhand.

Mr. Haider Khan is expected to take on Abdullah Azam, son of Rampur MP and senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, who is languishing in jail after the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government has lodged several cases against him. Mr. Abdullah was recently released from Sitapur jail and since he is likely to be fielded again from Suar, it sets up a double battle between the two families as Mr. Haider Khan’s father Kazim Ali Khan is contesting on a Congress ticket from the Rampur Sadar seat. Mr. Azam Khan could contest from the seat, which he has won eight times since 1980. In 2019, after he was elected to the Lok Sabha, his wife Tazeen Fatima secured the Rampur Assembly seat in a bypoll.

Long-held rivalry

Mr. Azam Khan’s long-held rivalry with the ‘Nawabs of Rampur’ has been a key part of his political career and he has faced several elections against the family or pitched candidates against them.

An engineering masters in structural technology, Mr. Abdullah contested from Suar in 2017 comprehensively defeating the sitting MLA Kazim Ali Khan, present titular Nawab of the Rampur royalty. However, in 2019 the Allahabad High Court declared his election null and void on grounds that he was not of valid age 25 when he filed his nomination. The petition was filed by Mr. Kazim Khan, a four-time MLA and Minister for Minority Welfare and Haj under the Mayawati government in 2003.

In 2017, he stood third from Suar, securing only around 42,000 votes as against the 1.06 lakh votes of debutant Mr. Abdullah. The BJP came second. In 2014, Mr. Kazim Khan had contested the Lok Sabha election as a Congress candidate and stood third but got enough votes to ensure that the BJP defeated the SP candidate from the seat where Muslims make up over 40% of the population.

Unlike his son, Mr. Kazim Khan will not shift to the Apna Dal (S) and will contest election on a Congress symbol, he told The Hindu . “I am fighting Azam on a Congress ticket,” he said. Mr. Kazim, popularly known as Naved Mian, said it was “not an issue” that he and his son were contesting from different parties. “Mulayam Singh’s daughter-in-law [Aparna Bisht Yadav] is in the BJP. Earlier, I was in the BSP and my mother was in the Congress. I was a Minister in the BSP government and she was in the Congress,” said Mr. Kazim Khan, whose parents Zulfiqar Ali Khan and Noor Bano were both former Congress MPs from Rampur.

Mr. Kazim Khan, who has studied architecture at the Columbia University, said he was contesting the election on local issues like the exorbitant electricity bills, power situation due to faulty underground wiring and underground sewage pipes, among others.

In 2017, the Apna Dal (S) won nine of the 12 seats it contested as part of the NDA.

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