BJP aims for knockout punch in SP stronghold; Rampur undergoes saffron makeover - Hindustan Times
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BJP aims for knockout punch in SP stronghold; Rampur undergoes saffron makeover

Apr 18, 2024 05:48 AM IST

Buildings and monuments erected during the tenure of nine-term SP MLA Azam Khan have lost sheen - some edifices have been razed while others dubbed as “illegal encroachment by Jauhar Trust” are being removed, paving way for saffron structures

RAMPUR The slow and steady saffron makeover of Rampur’s skyline depicts the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) strategy to breach the Samajwadi Party stronghold in the Lok Sabha election with its development model.

The newly built Shree Ram Chowk in Rampur. (Sourced)
The newly built Shree Ram Chowk in Rampur. (Sourced)

Buildings, gates and monuments erected during the tenure of nine-term SP MLA Azam Khan have lost sheen - some edifices have been razed while others dubbed as “illegal encroachment by Jauhar Trust” are being removed, paving way for the rise of saffron structures - Shree Ram Chowk in the heart of the city, PM Svanidhi Corridor on the busy Shahabad road and the Saras Haat on the outskirts of the city.

Azam Khan’s house located on Jail Road is deserted while the residence of BJP MLA Akash Saxena in Jwala Nagar is abuzz with activities as party workers throng his office to chart out the day’s poll campaign. “Now, Jwala Nagar is the power centre of Rampur and a symbol of development,” said a BJP worker.

Saxena said unlike the previous SP government when the administration ran on the whims and fancies of Azam Khan, the BJP government has launched development projects and schemes in the district for the welfare of the masses. Street vendors have been allotted 300 shops in the PM Svanidhi Corridor that has become a unique landmark of the city. The BJP government has set up a haat for the promotion of local products and women self-help groups have been allotted shops to sell various products, he added.

He said the UP government has been able to send a message to the people that Rampur is free from the clutches of Azam Khan. “The bruises on the city’s age-old culture and identity are being heeled. Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi, which was damaged under the SP government, has been renovated with 250 crore fund. Ali Jauhar Road has been renamed Mahatma Gandhi Road and Shaukat Ali road has been rechristened as Janpad Road. Raza Library, considered a treasure trove of Indo-Islamic learning and arts, is undergoing revival under the ministry of culture. Khan tried to shut the library by moving the rare manuscripts and books,” alleged Saxena.

During his campaign in Rampur, chief minister Yogi Adityanath reiterated the sentiments of BJP workers, saying: “Rampur is playing a pivotal role in the state’s progress and development is prioritized for all without favoritism. The BJP government’s vision is for a Rampur where every individual is respected, feels secure.”

BJP candidate Ghanshyam Lodhi, once a confidante of Azam Khan, said: “The so-called development of Rampur under SP government was only for Khan. Under the BJP government, Rampur is witnessing holistic development, paving way for the growing influence of saffron in the SP stronghold.”

After campaigning ended on Wednesday, BJP workers have planned to organize small meetings in various localities and villages.

“Though Azam Khan is lodged in jail along with his wife and former MP Tazeen Fatima and son Abdullah Azam (former MLA), politics in the constituency revolves around Khan,” said a BJP worker Ashutosh Verma, adding: “We are keeping a watch on the tussle between SP workers loyal to Khan and those committed to the SP leadership. The BJP stands to gain from the infighting in the SP camp,” he said.

To make inroads into the Muslim vote, the BJP on Monday opened doors to Haider Ali Khan alias Hamza Mian, son of former MLA Nawab Kazim Alia Khan. Haider had contested the 2022 assembly election from Suar seat but lost to SP candidate Abdullah Azam.

Samajwadi Party candidate Maulana Mohibullah Nadvi, a cleric at a mosque on Delhi’s Parliament Street. played down the differences in the party. “SP chief Akhilesh Yadav finalised my Lok Sabha ticket and I have blessings of Azam Khan. Party leaders and workers are campaigning for my victory. SP’s win will pave way for the release Khan and his family members from prison,” he said.

Asim Raza, a close aid of Azam Khan who contested the 2019 Lok Sabha election on SP ticket, is conspicuous with his absence from the election campaign. Raza had filed nomination, but his papers were rejected after SP announced Nadvi as the party official candidate. SP district unit president Ajay Sagar has also not joined the SP candidate while former district president Virendra Goel has announced support to BSP candidate Zeeshan Khan.

Akhilesh Yadav had met Azam Khan in Sitapur jail in mid-March to discuss the distribution of tickets in Rampur and adjoining constituencies. Khan urged Akhilesh to contest from Rampur or field a member of the Yadav family, but the SP fielded Nadvi, triggering resentment among Khan supporters.

“The absence of Raza and other senior SP leaders does not augur well for the SP candidate. It’s a clear indication that Azam’s supporters have deserted him,” said Abbas Ali, an SP worker.

However, the Yadav community that had a bitter relationship with the supporters of Azam Khan has mobilised support for the SP candidate in the absence of Khan. A meeting of the Yadav community was held at the residence of Hari Narayan Yadav, an influential leader, to announce support to Nadvi.

Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Faisal Khan Lala said party workers are campaigning for the SP candidate. “AAP is an ally of the INDI alliance and we have mobilised our cadre in support of the SP candidate,” he said.

BSP candidate Zeeshan Khan’s election campaign is limited to Muslim and Dalit dominated areas of the district. Khan belongs to Pathan community while Nadvi is a Turk. BSP leaders hope that resentment among Azam Khan supporters may benefit them if the Pathan community votes for Zeeshan.

There are 42% Muslim voters, 17% Dalit, 23% OBC, 14% upper caste and 3% Sikh community voters in the constituency. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, BJP candidate Nepal Singh secured victory defeating SP candidate Naseer Ahmed Khan. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, SP candidate Azam Khan secured victory defeating BJP candidate Jaya Prada. In the 2022 bypoll, BJP candidate Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi won the seat defeating SP candidate Asim Raza.

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