As SP bickers, Cong gets the edge in Rampur | india | Hindustan Times
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As SP bickers, Cong gets the edge in Rampur

The internecine battle within the Samajwadi Party over former actor Jayaprada’s nomination as its candidate for the Rampur seat in Uttar Pradesh continued unabated right up to the end of campaigning on Monday.

india Updated: May 12, 2009 00:51 IST
S Raju and Srinand Jha

The internecine battle within the Samajwadi Party over former actor Jayaprada’s nomination as its candidate for the Rampur seat in Uttar Pradesh continued unabated right up to the end of campaigning on Monday.

After stoically putting up with her own senior party colleague Mohammed Azam Khan’s unabashed efforts to discredit her, including the mysterious appearance of her morphed photographs on posters in Rampur town, clad only in a pair of panties, Jayaprada finally complained against him to the election commission. Other SP leaders too claimed enough was enough.

“Necessary action against Khan will be taken,” said senior SP leader Mohan Singh.

The impact of Khan’s sustained campaign, however, remains difficult to gauge. Jayaprada is pitted in a three cornered fight with the same contestants she had defeated in 2004 – Begum Noor Bano of the Congress and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s Ghanshyam Lodhi is also in the fray, but is running a poor fourth.

Despite its precipitous decline in the rest of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has remained a formidable force in Rampur, thanks mainly to Begum Noor Bano, hailing from the erstwhile royal family of the region. Jayaprada beat her by a narrow margin the last Lok Sabha poll, but this time with the Muslims completely divided following Azam Khan’s campaign, she is finding it difficult to retain the seat. Indeed with the Hindu vote of the region solidly behind him, while the Muslim vote splits between the Congress and the SP, the BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi too finds himself a strong contender.

After delimitation, Rampur’s population is almost equally divided between Hindus and Muslims. “My work should speak for me,” Jayaprada, 47, told HT. “So should my approach. I’ve never behaved like a leader with my constituents, more like a family member.”

In public, Azam Khan confines himself to merely attacking Jayaprada’s nomination, but in private he is known to openly root for Noor Bano. He insists his main quarrel with Mulayam Singh Yadav having extended support to Kalyan Singh, who was chief minister during the Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992, but in fact he has confined himself to damaging only Jayaprada’s prospects.

“The rural Muslims are with me,” Jayaprada asserted. But she herself wasn’t sure of the Muslims of Rampur town.

Sonia Gandhi’s hugely successful rally last Saturday, however, seemed to suggest that Noor Bano was winning back much support. “It was a hired crowd, won’t translate into votes,” said Asif Khan, a Jayaprada supporter. But his view had few takers.