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U.P. polls | Samajwadi Party finds new icon in APJ Abdul Kalam, denies loss of ‘Muslim face’

The Samajwadi Vijay Yatra rath -- Akhilesh Yadav’s personalised campaign vehicle -- carries pictures of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and socialist icons like Acharya Narendra Dev, Ram Manohar Lohia and Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Aggressively positioning itself against the BJP in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the Samajwadi Party seems to have found a new icon for itself -- former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam -- who shares space with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and socialist leaders on Akhilesh Yadav's campaign rath.

The Samajwadi Vijay Yatra rath -- Akhilesh Yadav’s personalised campaign vehicle -- carries pictures of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and socialist icons like Acharya Narendra Dev, Ram Manohar Lohia and Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, apart from that of former President Kalam.

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The use of the former President’s picture for election purposes appears uncommon, but Samajwadi Party leaders justify it, citing his proximity to party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav who they claimed was the first person to propose his name for presidency in 2002.

They dismissed charges that it was an attempt by the party to compensate for the loss of the party’s “Muslim face” Azam Khan, who is lodged in a jail in Sitapur with dozens of cases registered against him.

“The Samajwadi Party respects all the great personalities, and an attempt has been made to incorporate photographs of a large number of eminent personalities who have given a direction to the country and the society,” SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told PTI, “It was Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) who had proposed his (Kalam) name for the presidential elections in 2002,” Mr. Chaudhary said.

He also dismissed the “loss of Muslim face” theory. “There is no communal angle involved in this, and it is purely a nationalist angle. Azam ji enjoys the same respect, which he was getting earlier in the party.”

When contacted, Abu Asim Azmi, the chief of SP's Maharashtra unit and an MLA from Mankhurd Shivaji Nagar assembly constituency in Mumbai, said, “A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was a great scientist, and was fondly known as the ‘People's President’. The attraction which he had among the different sections of the society no other president had.

“People hold him in high esteem. They celebrate his birthday. Despite his achievements, he remained a modest person throughout his life. This is the reason that he continues to inspire many of us.” Mr. Azmi also said it was the idea of party chief Akhilesh Yadav to include Kalam's photo along with those of other eminent personalities.

He also rejected suggestions that it was done deliberately to woo Muslim voters.

“No. Kalam saahab had nothing to do with religion. He used to say that he reads Vedas after getting up in the morning.” Samajwadi Party Uttar Pradesh unit chief Naresh Uttam echoed similar views as he hailed the contributions of the former President.

The BJP, however, took a swipe at the Samajwadi Party over the issue “It seems that better sense and wisdom have prevailed on him (Akhilesh Yadav) as instead of (Muhammad Ali) Jinaah’s photo, former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's photograph appears in his rath along with those of other leaders,” said BJP leader Mohsin Raza, also Uttar Pradesh’s Minister of State for Minority Welfare, Muslim Waqf and Haj.

“Now, the SP chief has understood that one has to follow the path of a person who has been the pride of the nation, and not that person, who had divided the nation. Now, he (Akhilesh Yadav) is making an attempt to come on the right track and it seems that now he is finding a way for atonement of his sins,” he said.

Mr. Raza also said that it was the BJP who made Kalam President under the leadership of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and hence Akhilesh Yadav should also put Vajpayee’s photo on his rath.

“He (Akhilesh Yadav) has realised that the country moves ahead by following the ideology of the BJP," he said.

Akhilesh Yadav recently faced sharp rebuke from rivals for speaking about Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the same breath.

The late Kalam's former press secretary S.M. Khan in his book “The People's President APJ Abdul Kalam” had highlighted that Kalam acknowledged Mulayam Singh Yadav as his “guru” for Hindi.

An aerospace scientist, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam served as the 11th President from 2002 to 2007.

While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Shillong, on July 27, 2015, he collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest. He was 83.


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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 8:48:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/up-polls-samajwadi-party-finds-new-icon-in-apj-abdul-kalam-denies-loss-of-muslim-face/article37854104.ece

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