Shivpal appeared to also take a swipe at his brother and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav for not leading such a struggle.
A worried Samajwadi Party is said to be lining up a visit by one of its senior leaders to Azam to pacify him.
Lately,with Akhilesh. Recently, Azam’s close aide Fasahat Ali Khan accused Akhilesh of ignoring him since he was jailed two years ago, as well as not raising Muslim concerns despite having done well in the recent Assembly elections “due to the Muslim vote”.
Speaking to reporters outside Sitapur jail after his hour-long meeting with Azam, Shivpal Yadav said: “Despite him being such a senior leader and a founder member of the SP, no help has reached Azam bhai. There are such frivolous cases against him, which are false. Now, only one case is left (where bail is pending). It has been six months since arguments happened.”
Shivpal added: “See, I am with him and he is with me.”
Asked if he would join theor float a new party and if Azam would leave the SP, Shivpal said: “There is no such question right now. First, he should come out of jail. When a suitable time comes, such decisions will be taken.”
On Azam Khan’s jail stint, Shivpal said: “The SP should have led a struggle for Azam bhai. There are several members (of the SP) in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Under the leadership of Netaji (Mulayam), they could have sat in protest, and the PM () would have considered the matter. The whole country knows that the PM respects Netaji a lot. The SP people should have raised this issue. It is unfortunate, and it is the SP’s misfortune (that it hasn’t done so), as the identity of the SP has been protests and struggle.”
This was arguably the first time Shivpal suggested that Mulayam had erred. Party sources said Shivpal appeared to have decided to take the plunge having got a clear message that Mulayam would side with Akhilesh in the family fight.
Asked if Azam Khan would join his camp, Shivpal Yadav said that when the time comes, these decisions will be made.
As a counter to Shivpal’s visit, sources in the SP said, the party’s Lucknow Central MLA, Ravidas Mehrotra, would visit Azam Khan soon. He will try to pacify the senior leader.
The immediate provocation for Shivpal appears to have been Akhilesh’s statement on Wednesday that “those who are close to the BJP can’t be Samajwadis”. On Thursday, Shivpal hit back by challenging Akhilesh to expel him from the SP Legislature Party.
The rift between the uncle and nephew had come to the fore soon after the results were announced for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on March 10. Shivpal, who won from his stronghold Jaswantnagar on SP ticket, claimed he had been “disrespected” as Akhilesh didn’t invite him for a meeting of party MLAs on March 26 to elect the Leader of Opposition. The SP’s defence that Shivpal was not an SP member and would be called for a meeting of allies, like Om Prakash Rajbhar of the SBSP and Krishna Patel of the Apna Dal (K), did not go down well with the uncle.
On March 30, Shivpal sent another warning to Akhilesh when he met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and indicated that he was exploring his options, including joining the BJP.
On Wednesday, SP leaders claimed that peace overtures were being made towards Azam Khan after RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary dropped in to meet his wife Tanzeen Fatima and son Abdullah at their Rampur residence. Sources said Chaudhary, an SP ally, could have been acting as a go-between on behalf of Akhilesh.
Like Azam Khan, Shivpal Yadav belongs to Mulayam’s time. The older generation has been uncomfortable with Akhilesh’s rise. In the recent Assembly elections, Akhilesh had run the show single-handedly, keeping Shivpal in the background and appearing only once publicly with the Azam Khan family.