After Azam camp swipe at SP, ally Jayant stirs peace buzz with visit

IN A SURPRISE development, days after the Samajwadi Party was attacked by an aide of its senior leader Azam Khan, for “ignoring” Muslims, SP ally RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary paid a visit to Azam Khan’s wife Tanzeen Fatima and son Abdullah Khan at their Rampur residence on Wednesday. The RLD posted the pictures of the meeting from its official Twitter handle.

While RLD spokesperson Surendra Nath Trivedi termed the meeting a “courtesy visit”, sources said Chaudhary may have met the Khans to try and mend ties between the family and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav. Azam Khan remains one of the tallest SP leaders, especially of supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s time, and the statement from the Khan camp followed growing talk of Muslim disenchantment with the SP.

“Jayantji was in Rampur for some other programme. Since he was there, he met Azam’s family. Azam Khan is a big leader of Uttar Pradesh and he has been in jail for a long time. If the national president of the RLD is visiting the district, then it is but natural that he visits his family,” said Trivedi.

Sources said Azam Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar was also scheduled to meet Khan, in jail on Wednesday, but had to cancel it as he fell ill. “He will meet him in jail next week,” said a source, indicating that this might also be an intervention on Akhilesh’s behalf. Chaudhary and Chandrashekhar recently made a joint visit to a village in Rajasthan where a Dalit youth was murdered.

An indication of Khan’s lingering popularity in his bastion was the victory of both him and Abdullah in the recent polls. Akhilesh, who almost single-handedly spearheaded the SP campaign, made only one appearance with the Khan family during the polls.

On April 10, Khan’s media in-charge Fasahat Ali Khan attacked Akhilesh, arguing that while the SP had won 111 seats in the state “due to the Muslim vote”, the party chief keeps mum when, under the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government, FIRs are lodged against Muslims, their properties attached or recoveries carried out from them. Fasahat also accused Akhilesh of ignoring Khan since he was jailed two years ago, having met him only once.

The SP had done well in places with sizeable Muslim population in the recent elections, and of the 36 Muslim MLAs elected, most belong to the party.

Also supporting the idea that Chaudhary’s visit was an outreach to the Khan family, an SP leader said: “There is huge discontent among Muslim leaders in the party. They want Akhilesh to be vocal for the community, but he is playing safe because he fears the SP may lose support of other communities as it woos Muslims.”

On Wednesday, SP Saharanpur leader Sikander Ali quit the party, questioning Akhilesh “silence” on issues concerning the Muslim community and accusing him of “politics of cowardice”. Ali has held several district-level posts in the party, and claimed he had been with the SP for over two decades.

Another SP leader said Chaudhary could not have gone to meet Khan’s family without keeping Akhilesh in the loop. “Azam Khan is an SP leader, and if Jayant has met him, it must be after getting a nod from the SP chief.”

Asked by reporters in Agra about Chaudhary’s visit, Akhilesh said, “You should ask Jayant ji (about the visit). I don’t know. It is good he met them. But I didn’t send him.”

In another move seen as a bid for damage control, Akhilesh attended an iftar in Lucknow recently where prominent Muslim cleric Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali was present.

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