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Manish Chandra Pandey, Hindustan Times
Lucknow, January 22, 2014
 Back from his delegation’s controversial ‘study tour’ of several Commonwealth countries, Samajwadi Party’s Muslim face and senior minister Azam Khan defended the tour as “useful” and targeted a section of the media, especially news channels, for linking the visit with Muzaffarnagar riots to make “TRP gains.”

He also alleged that a section of the media was playing up the controversy at the behest of Team Modi. “They are playing into Narendra Modi’s hands,” he said.

Khan, who was recently cleared by a committee set up by the Vidhan Sabha speaker Mata Prasad Pandey to probe allegations in a TV sting operation about him asking the police in Muzaffarnagar to go slow on rioters, surprised many by claiming that he had done a sting himself on a TV reporter in New Delhi.

Read: UP team keeps low profile on London ‘study tour’, no interaction with media

He also played the communal card saying this was the fourth time he was part of a delegation to Commonwealth countries, but his first as its head, adding, “That’s the problem. Had I not been a Muslim heading this delegation, nothing would have happened.”

To repeated queries about the timing of the delegation’s visit Khan stuck to the line that his government was alive to its responsibilities.

Read: Saifai glitz, foreign junket may haunt Samajwadi Party for long

When asked why like CM Akhilesh Yadav and Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey who decided to keep away from the tour in wake of Muzaffarnagar, he too didn’t withdraw his name from the tour, Khan retorted: “I knew I was unwelcome in Muzaffarnagar. I already have 7 SC notices in connection with the sting. Fascist forces would have used my visit to play dirty games.”

Read: Cong calls UP govt 'good for nothing', stages protest

Read: Akhilesh defends Saifai, launches attack on media