Lucknow: Shivpal Yadav, the estranged uncle of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, feels the party and its patriarch — his brother Mulayam Singh Yadav — could have done more to get multiple-time MP and MLA Azam Khan out of jail.
“A lot of injustice and cruelty is being meted out to Azam Khan. He has been put behind bars for the past 26 months after lodging several fake cases against him,” Shivpal, whose long-running feud with his nephew is well-documented, told ThePrint in an interview Thursday.
He added that the SP, under “Netaji” (Mulayam), should have taken it up with the prime minister or sat in protest over “injustice and cruelty and the fake cases” that have kept Khan in prison for the last 26 months.
Shivpal’s statement is the latest development in a saga of shifting allegiances in Uttar Pradesh’s game of thrones. What the SP MLA from Jaswantnagar has said is significant, given the rising tensions between Azam Khan and Akhilesh Yadav.
Since last week, Shivpal has been openly declaring his sympathies with Khan, one of SP’s most controversial leaders. The Rampur MLA has 87 criminal cases against him and has been in jail since February 2020 — 84 of which were registered after the BJP won the 2017 assembly elections, a feat it repeated this year.
Notably, Shivpal himself has been reportedly cozying up to the Bharatiya Janata Party despite the fact that he won this year’s assembly elections on SP’s ticket.
SP leader Ravidas Mehrotra, who went to meet Azam Khan in prison 24 April, told ThePrint that BJP was trying to create distance between Khan and the SP, and as a result, wean away Muslims’ support from the party.
“Azam Khan sahab is a big leader but he has been denied the B class facilities that an MP/MLA should get inside a jail,” he said. “Jail officials keep provoking him and asking why no one from SP comes to meet him.”
Mehrotra also alleged: “When we go, we’re denied a meeting, saying Azam does not want to meet us but who knows whether jail officials even send our notes to him? The BJP government does not want SP people to meet Azam so that he is distanced from the party.”
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‘No talks of an alliance now’
Shivpal’s relationship with the Samajwadi Party and nephew Akhilesh in particular has been strained since their public feud in 2016, told ThePrint that any talk of joining hands with Azam Khan will take place only after he’s released from prison.
“I’ve not thought about it,” Shivpal told ThePrint when he was asked about the possibility of the two of them sharing a stage for the upcoming Lok Sabha by-elections in Rampur and Azamgarh.
“Azam bhai should come out first and fake cases should be withdrawn. Then, and only then, will there be any talk.”
“As soon as the chief minister comes to Lucknow, my effort will be to take some of his time and talk to him about some recent crimes — the incidents in Lalitpur, Prayagraj or Chandauli — and the cases against Azam bhai,” he said. Shivpal also called Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath a “saintly” person.
Shivpal was referring to a spate of criminal incidents in Prayagraj, Lalitpur and Chandauli. While several incidents of mass murder were reported in Prayagraj, an SHO and other policemen have been booked for culpable homicide after the 24-year-old daughter of a history-sheeter was allegedly beaten to death during a police raid. An inspector in UP’s Lalitpur district was arrested for raping a 13-year-old gang-rape complainant, due to which now an entire police station is under probe.
Both Rampur and Azamgarh are SP strongholds. Rampur was Azam Khan’s own seat, which he gave up in March this year — after the UP assembly elections — to retain his assembly seat. The Azamgarh seat, which Mulayam won in 2014 and his son Akhilesh in 2019, became vacant after the latter resigned to retain his Karhal assembly seat.
The statements come after insiders in the Azam Khan camp told ThePrint that Khan was upset at SP’s inaction.
On his part, Akhilesh has been dismissive of any talks of alliance between Azam Khan and Shivpal.
“Shivpalji is my uncle, naturally he will be one step ahead of me,” he told reporters Thursday.
An analysis of Azam Khan’s 2022 election affidavit reveals that 31 of the 87 cases against him are allegations of land grabbing in connection with Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, a private institution in Rampur of which Azam Khan is chancellor. Thirteen cases are over his statements during and after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while about 26 cases concern the alleged illegal demolition of houses in Dungarpur in 2016. He’s also been accused of stealing books from a madrasa, looting a man of Rs 16,500, and forging his son’s birth certificate and PAN card.
Azam Khan’s PRO, Fasahat Ali Khan, told ThePrint: “He has got bail in most of the cases and only one case is left, in which the Allahabad High Court has reserved its order since 4 December 2021”.
The Supreme Court said Friday that the delay in hearing Khan’s bail petition was a travesty of justice, and scheduled the next hearing in the case for 11 May.
Khan approached the country’s highest court after Allahabad High Court reserved its order on his bail application.
‘No acceptance by SP’
Shivpal said even after fighting the assembly polls on a Samajwadi Party ticket and getting more votes than any other opposition leader, he had not been accepted by the SP.
“Since they’ve still not accepted me, we’ve decided to reorganise and strengthen our party (the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia),” he said.
He said although Samajwadi Party’s refusal to give his party more seats had hurt him, what hurt him more was the SP’s choice to leave him out of a party’s performance review meeting after the assembly election.
“After the election, I got only one seat. I won the seat with the highest number of votes. Even after that the Samajwadi Party leader (Akhilesh) did not invite me to the meeting,” he said.
Asked about his recent tweet about the purported mistreatment at the hands of his nephew, where he hinted that someone he’d taught how to walk had turned on him, he said: “Samajhdar ko ishara hi bahut hai aur is baare me mujhe kuch nahi kehna (Hints are enough for smart people. I have nothing more to say about it).”
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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