Mohammad Azam Khan, the controversial and senior leader of Samajwadi Party and its MP from Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, has been missing from his constituency for the past few months. Sources say he is somewhere in New Delhi, but is incommunicado with his mobile phone switched off and calls to his official residence in New Delhi, having failed to elicit any response. And the reason behind this is that he has been declared a ‘land grabber’ by the Uttar Pradesh government.
Even though SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav came out in defence of his “friend of 33 years” at a press conference on Tuesday (September 3), asserting that he was being targeted by the BJP, but with as many as 80 cases in his name, police say it is just a matter of time before Khan is apprehended.
Parliamentarian or land-grabber?
In the past two months, almost 80 FIRs have been filed against Khan – 29 of them related to land grabbing. In the past week, 11 fresh FIRs have been filed against him.
City’s circle officer, Vidya Kishore Sharma, said a majority of the cases were registered after the Lok Sabha polls of 2019 and after Yogi Adityanath came to power in the state (in March 2017). The cases include those related to theft, loot, attempt to murder and also a case of buffalo theft. Charge sheets have been filed in 29 cases which have reached the court.
“He could be arrested any time, as criminal conspiracy under section 120B of the IPC has been added in cases of land grabbing,” says Sharma.
Among other complaints, Azam Khan has been accused of encroaching government land and grabbing the land of farmers for construction of Mohammad Ali Jauhar University in Rampur (a private university set up in 2006) of which he is the vice-chancellor. Ten farmers of Rampur have registered an FIR against him alleging that he encroached their land for construction of the university’s gate. The state irrigation department too has filed an FIR against him alleging that he has constructed a wall of the university on their land. The gate and the wall, have both been demolished.
Seventy-one-year-old Khan has been a nine-time MLA from Rampur before he successfully retained his Lok Sabha seat from the constituency this year, defeating BJP’s actor-turned-politician and former Rampur MP Jaya Prada by over one lakh votes. His wife, Tazeen Fatma is a member of the Rajya Sabha while one of his sons, Abdullah Azam Khan is an MLA from Suar constituency of Rampur.
King of controversies
Khan is mostly known for his political and sexist gaffes which have landed him in controversy time and again. He recently drew criticism for passing a flirtatious remark at BJP’s Lok Sabha MP Rama Devi while she was officiating the proceedings of the house during a discussion on the Triple Talaq Bill. “I like you so much that I could just gaze at your eyes,” he told a visibly embarrassed Rama Devi who was trying to tell him to address his speech to the chair.
There was a furore over this statement. Members demanded his expulsion from the Lok Sabha while others demanded his apology. Initially, he did not budge from his stand but later, he had to apologize to Rama Devi in the house.
During a campaign ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Khan made a misogynist comment against former party colleague and now political rival Jaya Prada. At a rally, he said “I recognised in just 17 days that the colour of her underwear was khaki (the colour associated with the BJP). He was censured for this comment by the Election Commission.
SP president Akhilesh Yadav, who meekly defended Khan in Parliament, never made an official announcement in this regard.
Mulayam comes to the rescue
On Tuesday, SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has passed on the charge of the party to his son Akhilesh, however, held a press conference in Lucknow after a gap of two years, just to defend Khan. Yadav said Khan, who comes from a humble background and has toiled hard to build the university was being targeted by the BJP and that his insult was the insult of the party. The SP patriarch appealed to party members to come out in open to support Khan against the ‘atrocities’ of the Uttar Pradesh government.
What could spell more bad news for the Rampur MP is that he has been charge-sheeted in many matters registered against him. And as these matters are already in court, the sword of arrest is constantly hanging over his head.
(The writer is a senior journalist)