Senior Samajwadi Party leaders on Thursday demanded strict action against Uttar Pradesh minister Mohd Azam Khan for skipping the national convention even as party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav played down talk of a rift.
SP’s Muslim face and co-founder Khan gave the second and the last day of the party’s national meet in Agra a miss, apparently to protest the “inept” handling of the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas that has left 43 people dead.
Asked about Khan’s absence, SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav said if senior leaders fail to meet official obligations, they should quit. “With such behaviour, a person lowers his own stature…Either he should not remain the office-bearer and resign or he should have come,” PTI quoted Ram Gopal, who is a cousin of Mulayam, as saying.
Party general secretary Naresh Agarwal joined the chorus. “No one is bigger than the party. People vote in the name of Mulayam Singh Yadavji,” he said.
Soon after, Mulayam, with Ram Gopal by his side, told mediapersons there was no rift in the party. “Azam Khan can never be unhappy with me. I know why he isn’t here. He has some issues and we would solve them,” the former UP CM said.
“Perhaps he had other engagements, so he couldn’t be here,” Mulayam said. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav stuck to his father’s line. “No one is angry,” he said in Agra.
A ruling party MLA said by “allowing” party leaders to speak out against Khan and then defending him, Mulayam conveyed two things -- Khan could be the party’s Muslim face but was not bigger than the party.
Mercurial Khan, who is also Muzaffarnagar’s minister in-charge, remained inaccessible to the media through the day. Stepping out of Khan’s Lucknow residence, his aide Rafey Rana told medipersons that the leader was down with fever. When asked about the demand for action against Khan, Rana said, “What can I say. These leaders are turncoats.”
Khan, who co-founded the party with Mulayam in 1992, is known to be temperamental. He has lately missed eight cabinet meetings and even slammed party chief for meeting VHP leaders.