By Haider Abbas
The writer sits to the left of Ex. UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, Maulana Muhammed Hasan Akhtari (Iran) to his right and on his right is MA Khan, at a banquet dinner hosted at 5 KD Marg on March 6, 2014
I have written many times on the political lines of what Muhammed Azam Khan has stood for, since 1993 when I first met him at his 34-B Darul Shifa apartment in Lucknow. It won’t be out of place of me to claim, to be as; an unofficial biographer of MA Khan. I also did write a couple of articles titled as ‘Sitapur Jail Diary’, after my numerous visits to Sitapur Jail, where MA Khan, his wife Tazeen Fatima and his son Abdullah Azam Khan were jailed, since February 2020, and are now on bail. MA resigned from his MP Rampur seat and Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav also vacated his MP Azamgarh seat, where by-elections were held and on June 26 and both the seats were lost to BJP. MA Khan has been a 10 times MLA, Ex. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MP from Rampur.
MA Khan career as a politician, encompassing around four-decades, is fraught with many controversies, but I can claim that he ‘called me on phone’, on certain times, which may be construed as ‘important’. He called me when he was ‘on his way’ to the venue to take his oath-ceremony in 2012, telling me that Akhilesh Yadav had cancelled his sharing the stage with Salman Rushdie, which was my effort to anyhow play counsel to Akhilesh Yadav, through MA Khan. He called me, right at the moment in 2013, when SP leader Naresh Agarwal had pilloried against him to resign from SP as he had not attended the SP convention in the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar riots. He remembered me in 2014 when he had claimed that it were Muslims who wrested Kargil war from Pakistan and was banned from election campaign, and also in 2018, he called upon me, when the entire news channels were gunning for him as he had called that it was a matter of shame for the whole country that Maoists women cut the private parts of our security forces.
I my observing of MA Khan, let me also elaborate that Rampur has been an erstwhile Shia state and never I had ever experienced MA Khan to be ‘nursing’ any contempt against Muslims with a Shia denomination, despite his cardinal campaign against the Nawabs of Rampur, who of course happen to belong to the Shia sect. In fact, during my numerous discussions I found-out that MA Khan derives a ‘lot of his inspiration’ from the likes of Imam Khomeini, who had brought an Iranian revolution.
SP candidate Asim Raja Shamsi . Courtesy: ABPLive
In my hundreds of meetings and sittings with MA Khan and dozens of such interactions with SP Rampur candidate Asim Raja Shamsi, never it had occurred to me that AR Shamsi is an Other Backward Class (OBC) Muslim, something which was parroted full-blown by Syed Qasim, a panelist at UPTak throughout its by-elections debates. The journo tried his best to make a wedge inside Muslim society and also claimed that the Khans, Syeds and Turks, Upper Caste Muslims did not like AR Shamsi’s candidature, whereas the same journalist did not place the same yardstick for Ghansham Singh Lodhi, an OBC Hindu, a turncoat of SP, as a BJP candidate to have irked Upper Caste Hindus? There is no denying the fact, owing to its past, that BJP is essentially an Upper Caste Brahmin centric party and SP has always stood for social and secular justice.
UPTak claims that 6 million are its subscribers and by that standard, has been a key into making a perception against MA Khan, through this scribe in particular, who once even quipped his eye-brows to seek it from Amir Khan, the ground reporter of UPTak in Rampur, about a respondent Danish Abideen, if he was a Shia. Abideen had certain complaints which are very common at every party office, that he finds SP office to be monopolized by certain elements who do not allow ‘the-voice’ to reach the top. The gentleman journalist was disenchanted as Danish Abideen did not turn out to be a Shia, or else, a Shia trope was to have been there to spell the grouse.
There are no qualms that UPTak had structured its questionnaires and line-of-discussions against SP and pro-BJP but this senior-journalist, in his zest of outlandishness once even boasted that since 1985 he had been visiting power-echelons and that his three generations were ‘into-journalism’ and that he ‘starts to think’ from the point where the politicians thinking ends! He would pontificate continually, hours after hours, that MA wanted SP candidate Dharmendra Yadav to lose Azamgarh and also never wanted AR Shamsi to win. In fact he also tried to rename AS Raja as Raza to dish-out a Shia connotation to his name. Raza is a generic often used in Shia names. How could MA Khan do so when he himself is the second-surviving member who had founded SP apart from its first President Mulayam Singh Yadav. The same panelist also did mispronounce the name of wife of MA Khan, who is an Ex. Rajya Sabha MP and Ex. MLA from Rampur and called her as Tanzeem Fatima
There were tailor-made wiles, to his own ruse, as this commentator conferred that MA Khan on his visit to Azamgarh exhorted voters to become united, which meant SP voters, but Qasim’s convoluted logic is that MA Khan wanted Muslims to unite and therefore had called for Muslims to vote for BSP candidate Shah Alam Guddu Jamali! In the same vein he also echoed that MA Khan wanted AR Shamsi to lose from Rampur as it would have been difficult to dislodge, a winner Shamsi, from ‘aspirations from the same seat’ in 2024. Whereas, the fact is that MA Khan, despite his illness and beleaguered jail-experiences, had exhausted his whole energy to see Asim become a Raja-the King.
The commentator in question, can surely be doubted of his BSP leanings, as there was never an iota of reference, towards how Muslims had deserted BSP in March 2022 elections, despite BSP making 86/403 Muslim candidates and 122 candidates of the same caste denomination as that of SP, to help BJP win, and how BSP charted the same chapter by fielding Guddu Jamali, to cut into Muslim votes and how it shifted its votes towards BJP in Rampur, by not fielding a candidate, something which BSP Chief Mayawati has always prided. BSP had finished with one seat in March Assembly 2022 elections.
There was instead no debate and ‘news-chasing’ as to how BJP government had bludgeoned its entire resources and state apparatus (as alleged by many media outlets) to see BJP sail to victory. Why Mayawati waited until the polling was done, to declare her party’s support towards NDA Presidential candidate Drauptdi Murmu? On the same lines when once she had saved AB Vajpayee government, against the no-confidence motion brought against it by Congress Party in 2003. Mayawati has formed government thrice with BJP support. BSP has made BJP where it stands today.
The same journalist was into ‘awe’ as to why MA Khan not engage into any vitriolic attack against BJP Ex. Spokesperson Nupur Sharma, who had made derogatory remarks against Prophet of Islam. He ridiculed MA Khan to have sought ‘divine wrath’ against her, seeking to know, if that be the sake, then what would Muslims do? On the contrary, he also lauded the ‘legally-questionable’ steps of the UP government to bulldoze the houses of Muslim protestors against Nupur Sharma , by assigning that common Muslims were ‘happy’ to see rich Muslim houses getting reduced to a rubble.
The UPTak panelist, so conclusive in his homilies, referred MA Khan ‘Aurengzeb Ka Hindustan’ to have dented SP prospects in Azamgarh, whereas, the fact is that MA Khan ‘Aurengzeb’ remarks were a satire to RSS which has announced to reclaim Akhand Bharat by 2037. MA Khan had wanted to say that if Aurengzeb India, which included Afghanistan and even Rangoon, was to be reclaimed, would be a good idea, for if India was not to have been partitioned, Hindus and Muslims as equal brothers, were to have guaranteed each other; what to eat/wear etc and there was to have been no controversy over Hijab/Halal/Azaan etc.
Interestingly, Keshav Prasad Maurya, who lost 2022 polls, but yet made BJP Deputy CM, made a statement in Rampur, all laced with communal overtones, that there would be ‘Ram Rajya’ and not ‘Abdullah Rajya’, symbolizing Abdullah as Muslims (while Abdullah Is MLA from Rampur too), which made MA Khan to rebut that KP Maurya, who has been made MLC to ‘fend-for-a-begging’, wanted to snigger at Abdullah (Muslims) whose fate is to be always to be that behind-bars and humiliation, is what UPTak panelist Anupam Mishra found as ‘unprovoked’ targeting of Maurya. Anupam Mishra also drew a parable of Jinnah who had assumed to be the sole-spokesman of Muslims before 1947, to that to MA Khan too, who according to him, seems to have aesthecticized it. Mishra’s reference to Jinnah was by extension a spoof towards Akhilesh Yadav, who had likened Jinnah, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel to have worked together for India’s independence.
Anyone with even slight understanding of Rampur elections knows it well as to how derisive has been MA Khan’s politics against the Nawabs and the scornful retaliation from the Nawabs towards him. This slugfest was witnessed this time too, but with the exception that Nawabs, who after all are Muslims too, went to the extent to support BJP, which is essentially responsible to make Muslims ‘toil-for-their-place’ in the country.
But, what however, the overall crux of the matter turned out to be, is that UPTak took to be an unofficial organ of BJP, apart from hundreds of other news outlets, to make Ghansham Singh Lodhi win from Rampur and Dinesh Lal Nirahua (BJP) win over SP Dharmendra Yadav in Azamgarh, both by wafer thin margins, and never debated as to how Mayawati has destroyed the opposition by truly becoming an arm of BJP. This is despite that such debates may now be found on some channels too. But, for UPTak, only some wishful-thinkers can expect it so.
As for Rampur, it may be known that GS Lodhi had also once been a protégé of MA Khan too. MA Khan politics in Rampur, is therefore, to stay.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on political issues.