Azam khan deserves a second hearing

Lucknow: Muhammed Azam Khan was banned for 72 hours from campaigning, from April 16, alongwith Yogi Adityanath, Maneka Gandhi and Mayawati by the Election Commission. He was served with ‘no-notice’ by EC. Azam was sentenced for his remarks against the BJP candidate from Rampur for putting on ‘khaki’ underwear. All hell broke loose as he was accused of misogyny and sexist attack. Incidentally, the National Commission for Women, in its notice called the remarks as ‘sexiest’. FIR under Section 509 IPC was also lodged against him in Shahabad, Rampur. Azam Khan denied that the remarks were made against the BJP candidate who had once called him Alauddin Khilji of the film Padmavat fame, for no provocation! Azam had then replied that he would not address a danseuse. That was in 2018.

Azam is the Muslim face of Samajwadi Party, a nine-time MLA and Rajya Sabha MP. It just not behoove a politician of his seniority, for his unblemished role in politics for over four decades, without a speck of a corruption-charge, to engage into shoddiness.  The entire proceedings of the meeting at Shahabad, Rampur, is available for one hour, 29 minutes and 56 seconds on Samajwadi page on Youtube. Azam took to mike at 35:50 and ended it at its 57th min. This alleged controversial remark he made at 44:33 is in the eye of storm. While referring to the BJP candidate, whom he addressed as ‘Sahab’ and not ‘Sahiba,’ who after a visit to a temple in Delhi (before nominations) had said ‘mein Rampur ke liye rawangi karne waala hoon’ not ‘waali’ to kill a demon’ [Azam Khan].

Azam said that he could make out the leanings towards RSS of the BJP candidate, erstwhile SP MP from Rampur in 2004 and 2009, in 17 days but it took 17 years for people of Shahabad, Rampur, UP and India to learn the same. The BJP candidate had joined SP in 2004. “17 years” here for the said MP would mean 2021.  No sooner the comment was made, it became a rage in the country. The most scathing attack came from Vinod Dua at The Wire who said that though Azam Khan had not mentioned the name of Jaya Prada but then AB Vajpayee had also not named Babri Masjid when, on Dec 5, 1992, he had called the land to be made smooth and LK Advani had said that it was the “last Karseva” which meant that Babri Masjid would lay demolished on Dec. 6, 1992. Dua hit where it would hurt the most as Azam is a formidable figure of the Babri Masjid movement.

No doubt Azam calculated his words but EC did not find it appropriate to give him a chance for hearing. But, do we all not know that ‘khaki-underwear’ is a political axiom and it is per chance that BJP candidate is a female. He never meant to demean his opponent. Throughout his speech he was an epitome of secularism, as Rampur’s former MP, Rajender Sharma, sat with him on the dais along with the SP President Akhilesh Yadav.

Azam had recalled that when he was back, after the 1977 jail, he was accorded the biggest welcome on Rampur station, and the former PM Chaudhry Charan Singh had sought that he contest for Parliament from Rampur or anyone whom he would suggest, to which he had refused and had said ‘no’ to his cousin Dr Rafiullah. Instead, he recommended Rajender Sharma who twice represented Rampur. Azam also had said that he was all too broken by the loss of Vijay Singh in 2017 polls.

Azam during his speech was training his guns on the BJP candidate’s mentor Amar Singh as both of them have had a long rivalry. He did not name Amar Singh as well and referred to a ‘Beemar’ man in Delhi who had come to Rampur to pump 150 bullets had he had found Azam. Azam was playing his victim card before his party president, and answered to previous accusations too when he was accused to be behind the purported porn CD of the now BJP candidate. Azam had sworn by his late mother that he was never behind any such deed.

Azam is the founder of a Jauhar University, he runs Rampur Public School and Rampur Kids School and charges Rs 20 from families of rickshaw-pullers. He is Sir Syed The Second who carved a way for his dream university despite all odds. During my over 25 years’ association with him, I have seen him observing fasts in Ramadan, offering prayers with punctuality, and being very guarded even in his laughter. He made a state-visit to Iran at the personal invitation of Ayatullah Khomeni’s daughter. His wife is a Rajya Sabha MP, his son is MLA and his political prowess is just second to none in UP. He failed the EC test but he can never rundown his opponent as a woman.  EC did not give him a hearing but people in Rampur will surely give him a second hearing on April 23.

As for EC, it may be known that it has suspended the IAS officer Muhammed Mohsin on April 18 for checking Narendra Modi’s helicopter in Odisha. Modi was earlier accused by Congress before EC on April 14 of carrying a black-box in his chopper, which SPG sources said was  security-material but why was it then so hurriedly packed-off in a waiting white SUV instead of the PM’s own cavalcade? EC is yet to take cognizance.  

The writer in a lawyer, journalist and former UP State Information Commissioner. 

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