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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

The Khan of Lucknow

Sunita Aron, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, May 03, 2013
First Published: 00:30 IST(3/5/2013) | Last Updated: 03:09 IST(3/5/2013)

Who helped Tipu become the sultan of Uttar Pradesh?

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The answer lies in Tipu's decision to cancel his Harvard University speech on the management of the largest and longest ever human congregation in the world, the Kumbh mela.

After his uncle and regent, Azam Khan, was frisked at Logan International Airport in Boston, a devoted Tipu – UP CM Akhilesh Singh Yadav – paid back by defending the izzat (honour) of the person who raised the slogan during the 2000 Lok Sabha by-poll: "Tipu ko sultan banao (Make Tipu the king)."

Rashid Gani Khan, who has been a close confidant of Azam for 35 years, said Azam is not only Mulayam's closest buddy, but he is also one of those who founded the Samajwadi Party in 1992.

His words are taken seriously by voters and Akhilesh got elected to the Lok Sabha from Kannauj.

Khan, who has quit the government on four occasions in the past 14 months, carefully maintains the image of a person with mizaj (Urdu for mood) and a very acidic tongue.

Also, a Pathan known for shooting from the hip first and looking in later – another carefully built image – Khan was not expected to take the frisking at a US airport meekly.

Although party insiders insist that the boycott decision was collectively taken to consolidate the minority vote bank – it seems to have pleased the minority voters – many intellectuals among them didn't support this confrontationist attitude.

But others say there's more to it. Khan, who considers himself to be an equal of Yadav senior Mulayam Singh – he controls one half of the SP's Muslim-Yadav combination – has of late been playing mentor to Tipu both in and outside the assembly, especially where the young CM may face uncomfortable situations. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/5/03-05-13-pg-08b.jpg

He even accompanied Akhilesh to meet the slain Kunda police officer's wife and later the family members of the village head, whose death triggered the violence in SP-backed MLA and minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh's constituency.

Seeing the hostile crowds in Kunda, Khan said, "As he (Akhilesh) is careless about his own security, I move around with him."

This answers to a large extent the most obvious question in UP politics -- "Why is Khan allowed to hold the government to ransom?"

What's more, Khan is the most prominent and popular Muslim face of the party and is quite different from Naseemuddin Siddiqui, hoisted by BSP chief Mayawati, Mulayam's arch rival.

While Siddiqui is allegedly involved in several cases of financial irregularities, Khan's integrity still remains unsullied.

Strong in his constituency, where he enjoys an unquestionable traction with the voter, Khan has never followed "the boss-is-always-right" route in his political journey.

In 2009, he even snapped his ties with Mulayam, objecting to the growing influence of Amar Singh. His tiff with party MP and cine star Jaya Prada – who is still close to Singh -- made for a juicy story.

Khan put up posters with politically unacceptable photographs of Jaya Prada in his home turf Rampur during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

During that election, Khan also opposed Mulayam's proximity to Kalyan Singh – often called the temple star for his role as UP chief minister during the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992.

Azam Khan returned home only after Mulayam broke his ties with Amar Singh and apologised to Muslims for his "blunder of joining hands with Kalyan Singh".

The Khan has always got his way, so far.


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