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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Can BJP’s ‘magic’ work in SP’s bastion?

cities Updated: Oct 20, 2019 00:52 IST
M Tariq Khan
M Tariq Khan

RAMPUR The by-election to the Rampur city assembly seat may not be a battle royale this time, but it is still one of the most closely watched contests among the 11 constituencies going to poll on Monday.

Campaigning in the city lacks crescendo but certainly not colour. Those in the fray and their supporters are pulling out all stops to grab eyeballs in the hope that it would also fetch votes, even if it means invoking a curse or conjuring up a magic trick!

At a public meeting organised on Thursday to drum up support for party candidate Bharat Bhushan Gupta, BJP corporator Ajay Diwakar donned the hat of a magician. He took out party flags of the Congress, BSP and the Samajwadi Party, tied them in a knot and unfurled, turning all three of them into a BJP flag amidst cheer and shouts from an amused audience.

A day later, BJP’s star campaigner Jaya Prada, who lost against SP’s Azam Khan in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, said ‘a woman’s curse’ would ensure SP’s defeat this time.

The latter had made some objectionable remarks against her in the campaign.

“We cannot let this town slip into darkness further. I could not defeat Azam Khan sahab in Lok Sabha polls, and this is your chance to correct that mistake,” Jaya said at a rally.

Azam’s wife Tazeen Fatima is contesting from the seat vacated by her husband following his election to the Lok Sabha.

However, political observers feel that it will take the party more than a few magic tricks and a curse to wrest Rampur – which has been a bastion of Samajwadi Party lawmaker Mohd Azam Khan for close to three decades now.

During the years, Khan has managed to increase his family’s sway on Rampur by getting son Abdullah elected from the adjoining Suar assembly constituency and a Rajya Sabha nomination for wife Tazeen Fatima.

“His (Azam’s) oratory skills have been his USP as well as his Achilles’ heel because of which he is loved and loathed by his fans and enemies alike,” says Tamkin Faiyaz, a senior journalist, adding that it was a straight contest between the SP and the BJP.

Not surprising therefore, it is Azam who has been doing most of the talking in the party rallies with his wife and son by his side.

“People, especially the poor and farmers, are fed up with Azam Khan and his family members because of the way their land has been grabbed and they have been harassed by Khan. We are going to re-write history and rid Rampur people of the oppression and atrocities heaped on them during the one-family rule,” says BJP nominee Bharat Bhushan Gupta.

Anti-incumbency and the presence of two other Muslim candidates propped up by both the Congress and the BSP are expected to split the predominant Muslim voters (65%) and queer the pitch for Khan’s wife. After the delimitation in 2007, 70 villages, in which majority of voters were Hindu, were merged into the Rampur assembly seat to change the equation but failed to loosen SP’s hold on the seat.

Faisal Lala, a local youth leader, who played a major role in the 87 land-grab and other cases registered against Azam Khan and his family, too has been telling people to exercise NOTA option ever since Congress dashed his hopes and expelled him for anti-party activities.

By inducting a prominent city Muslim radioligist Dr Tanveer Ahmad Khan into party fold, the ruling BJP seems to have sprung a surprise. Dr Tanveer has contested on BSP ticket in the past and managed to bag 25,000 to 30,000 votes.

“Azam won the 2017 assembly election from Rampur by a margin of 46,842 votes. But what many people do not know that his victory from previous election dropped by nearly 18,000 votes,” says Majid Ali Khan, a timber trader near Bilaspur Gate.

He says that it would be a straight contest between the BJP and the SP and Tazeen Fatima could face an uphill task if the constituency records a low voter turnout. It was 54% in the previous election.

“The BJP’s prospects were bright till they announced the name of Gupta. If the party really wanted to put up a fight, it should have opted either for Jaya Prada or a better contestant,” says Vipin Kumar Sharma, bureau chief of Hindi daily ‘Hindustan’.

Not only the slew of cases against the Khan family have generated a sympathy among the voters, the infighting and resentment over BJP candidate Gupta would work in favour of the SP, he said.

And Khan apparently knows this and is trying to cash in on the sympathy factor. The SP lawmaker, who once taunted BJP leader Jaya Prada of being a ‘good actor’, has himself made some emotional speeches to the voters in public meetings.

“Those who are making accusations against me... I ask them - why will I usurp the land of the poor? At least be scared of Allah before making such false allegations,” Khan said at a rally in Qila in Rampur. Whether the family legacy would win once again or history would be written afresh would be known when results are announced on October 24.

Rampur city Population: 325,313

Electorate 3,18,714 (2012)

Males 169,681

Females 155,632

Muslims 227,793 70.02 %

Hindus 92,576 28.46 %

Sikhs 3,261 1.00 %

Christians 789 0.24 %

Jains 567 0.17 %

Not Stated 231 0.07 %

Buddhists 90 0.03 %

Others 6 0.00 %