Lucknow: “It is Kapil Sibal’s ‘right’ to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha and it would be an honour for any political party to do so,” Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Azam Khan said Tuesday, speaking to journalists at his official residence in Lucknow on 24 May.
Khan’s comment comes amid speculation in Lucknow political circles around the SP considering Sibal for nomination to the Rajya Sabha. Sibal, who is among the Congress members who have been demanding reforms and accountability from the leadership, is believed to have been on the sidelines in the party since. His Rajya Sabha term ends in July.
On 20 May, Khan was released on interim bail from Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur jail, where he served 27 months in connection with several cases, including that of alleged land-grabbing. Sibal is Khan’s counsel in the Supreme Court.
“[Sibal] is such a senior personality, he is a very big person and very nice. I’ll be the happiest if he is [nominated],” said Khan.
ThePrint reached Sibal by phone, but the Congressman refused to comment.
A senior SP leader who wished to not be named, however, told ThePrint that Sibal’s was indeed among the list of names being discussed for nomination to the Upper House of Parliament.
In 2016, Sibal was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh as a Congress candidate with the support of the SP. However, with the Congress now reduced to only 2 MLAs in the state, it is not in a position to elect anyone from UP, where 11 Rajya Sabha seats will soon fall vacant.
The BJP, with its majority, can win seven seats, while the SP can win three. If the former fields an eighth candidate, an election will be necessitated.
When asked for a comment, SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Choudhary told ThePrint that the real picture will be made clear “by tomorrow” (25 May).
A change in perspective
Azam’s relationship with his party has not been at its strongest.
Before his release from jail, Khan’s aides had publicly expressed their anger towards the SP, with the leader’s spokesperson, Fasahat Ali Khan, saying that SP president Akhilesh Yadav met Azam Khan only once in jail and the party made no attempts for his release over the past two-and-a-half years.
Azam Khan had also refused to meet an SP delegation led by party MLA Ravidas Mehrotra when they attempted to meet him in Sitapur jail, but met Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Yadav — with whom the former CM is said to share tense ties — and Congress leader Pramod Krishnam.
According to Choudhary, though, reports of Azam Khan’s anger towards the SP leadership are a creation of the media. “There is nothing like that. Mediapersons keep on asking such things and it is their creation,” he said.
Khan has denied that Sibal’s possible nomination could be the SP’s attempt to placate him. “No, no. I, an ill, weak person, country’s No.1 mafia with hundreds and thousands of cases lodged against him, don’t have the standing to be upset with them,” he said to reporters.
He also opened up about his relations with Shivpal Yadav and the SP. “I have spoken to him [Shivpal] earlier, and will meet him in the future too. And why just him? I can meet anyone. Till now, I had drawn a line my entire life, not looked at any other boat (political organisation), boarding it was a far cry.
“But I realised that salaam-dua (salutations) should be exchanged with everyone. If chai-nashta (meeting over a meal) happens, there should not be any problem. If leaders of all political parties have this right to meet everyone, have some chai-nashta, visit marriage ceremonies and each other in good times and bad, then I can too. I, too, am a human like them,” he said.
When asked if he will indeed “look at another boat”, he added, “Pehle koi makool kashti saamne to aaye, abhi to mera jahaaz kafi hai (let a suitable boat come, as of now, my own ship is enough).”
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)