Double engine vs SP legacy battle on cards in Rampur - Hindustan Times
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Double engine vs SP legacy battle on cards in Rampur

Apr 13, 2024 06:38 AM IST

Since June 2022 bypoll, Rampur has become a laboratory of BJP’s ‘pasmanda politics’; SP candidate hopeful of Azam Khan’s support

LUCKNOW From sharp-edged foldable knives popularised by Bollywood goons in the 80s to handmade Indian violins made of maple wood from Brazil, Rampur has always balanced paradoxes.

In this picture taken on March 13, 2024, girls take their selfie in front of Raza Library in Rampur. India’s 220 million Muslims make up 14% of the 1.4 billion population. (AFP Photo)
In this picture taken on March 13, 2024, girls take their selfie in front of Raza Library in Rampur. India’s 220 million Muslims make up 14% of the 1.4 billion population. (AFP Photo)

It has seen politics from up close – from giving the country its first education minister to witnessing the rise of royalty which subsequently gave way to a politician who wooed the electorate with his flawless Urdu oratory.

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Despite having the country’s biggest minority - Muslims - in a majority here, it voted twice for a Bollywood actress! The paradoxes continued, with the change of governments - like witnessing policemen getting suspended over missing buffaloes of an influential politician who dominated Rampur’s politics since the 80s to seeing the same politician behind bars in a bevy of cases.

Rampur hadn’t quite seen anything as dramatic as was witnessed this time around as Samajwadi Party candidate Maulana Mohibullah Nadvi, the imam of Delhi’s Parliament Street Mosque, where most Muslim MPs visit to offer namaz, made a dash to file his nomination even as another candidate Asim Raza, an aide of SP stalwart Azam Khan had already filed his nomination on the same party symbol.

Subsequently during scrutiny, Asim Raza’s nomination papers were rejected setting up the 2024 clash in Rampur between the SP’s ‘cleric candidate’ and BJP’s Ghanshyam Lodhi, a former Azam-aide who defeated the SP in June 2022 Lok Sabha by-poll.

Since 1980, this is the first Lok Sabha election in Rampur, from which Azam Khan, a nine-term lawmaker, would be missing either as a voter, a contestant or campaigner. Rampur has since June 2022 by-poll also become a laboratory of BJP’s ‘pasmanda (backward)’ politics as the party has held a series of meetings to woo pasmanda Muslims – Azam’s core voters who have been instrumental in his near successive nine wins as lawmaker from Rampur (Sadar).

“The ‘pasmanda’ Muslims are in a majority and yet a handful of upper caste Muslims have been setting the narrative here. The BJP has brought the focus back on the neglected poor among the community that had previously remained sidelined,” said Javed Malik, BJP’s west UP minority wing chief.

“June 2022 by-poll, assembly by-polls in Suar and Rampur Sadar seats have proved that Rampur is with the double engine BJP government’s development mission,” said Ghanshyam Lodhi.

In 2016, it was Azam who had got Lodhi to switch loyalties to SP and even batted for an MLC nomination for him. In June 2022, his defection to BJP set the stage for the saffron party’s entry into this SP citadel and subsequently led to more breach with SP losing two assembly segments of Rampur as well.

The same held true for actor Jaya Prada who won the 2004 LS election from Rampur on Azam Khan’s backing but won again in 2009 despite opposition from Azam, who during this period, was out of Samajwadi Party. “Rampur has made and unmade politicians. Once the Nawabi family called the shots here, then came Azam who made Rampur his own. But, while his word packs weight in Rampur, it doesn’t mean that others are insignificant,” said Liaquat Khan, a local journalist in Rampur.

Khan was referring to 2009 Jaya Prada win despite Azam’s opposition, SP losing 3 assembly seats in Rampur even during SP wave of 2012, the BJP win of Rampur in 2014 Lok Sabha polls when the party also took lead in Rampur’s (Sadar) assembly segment, the loss of 2 assembly seats of SP in 2017 UP polls and the subsequent losses suffered by SP.

“I think setting aside small differences, all SP leaders will back me and I am hopeful of securing Azam saheb’s support,” said Nadvi who faces a tough challenge from the BJP. The BSP has named Zishan Khan as its candidate on the seat to make it a triangular fight.

There is a buzz fuelled by some local BSP leaders that Azam might tacitly back the BSP candidate, who too has been his former aide. The backers of this theory extend the logic about BSP chief Mayawati always being soft on Azam to substantiate their view.

While senior BJP leaders are expected to campaign in Rampur, the SP-Congress too is planning campaign strategies on the seat.

“Rampur is an important seat where our ally Samajwadi Party is contesting. Naturally, joint campaigns are being planned though as of now, seat-specific campaign plan hasn’t been decided,” said Congress leader CP Rai. The SP is planning rallies by its top leaders. “We have sought rallies by party chief Akhilesh Yadav ji and are hopeful of the same,” Nadvi said. Rampur goes to polls in the first phase on April 19.

KEY CANDIDATES

SP-CONG: MOHIBULLAH NADVI

BJP: GHANSHYAM LODHI

BSP: ZISHAN KHAN

PAST RESULTS

JUNE 2022 BY-POLL - GHANSHYAM LODHI - BJP

2019 - AZAM KHAN - SP

2014 - NAIPAL SINGH - BJP

2009 - JAYA PRADA - SP

2004 - JAYA PRADA - SP

ABOUT RAMPUR

Known for its famous Raza library with more than 12,000 rare manuscripts and great collection of Mughal miniature paintings, it shares boundaries with Moradabad, Bareilly, Badaun.

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