Lucknow: Among the 11 Assembly bypolls in Uttar Pradesh, results of the contest in Rampur, where Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan’s wife Tanzeen Fatima is contesting on the party's ticket, will perhaps be the most keenly-watched one on Thursday (October 24).
The Rampur seat, which has never been won by a non-Muslim since 1952, is witnessing a four-cornered contest this time with Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party fielding Muslim candidates. This could possibly result in a division of the Muslim vote bank that could play to BJP's advantage.
Bypolls on this seat were necessitated after Azam Khan’s election in the 2019 Lok Sabha. The voters here comprise 52% Muslim and 17% Dalit voters. The Bahujan Samaj Party could possibly gain from the caste combination and clinch a victory. The seat has been consistently won by SP, especially since Azam Khan began contesting for the party in 1980, save for 1996 when it was won by the Congress.
If the BJP candidate for Rampur bypoll, Bharat Bhushan Gupta, wins from the seat it will not only break SP’s decades-old record but will send a defining message that Muslims voters are not reluctant on voting for the saffron party. Political observers are, however, of the opinion that Gupta is not as strong a candidate and might prove costly to the BJP.
If Tazeen Fatima manages to win the seat, the Samajwadi Party will waste little time in terming the cases against Azam Khan as government vendetta. “Due to the administration’s strictness, Azam Khan is facing many cases and has been absent from Rampur for quite some time. However, it will still be a challenge for BJP to win the Rampur seat. Mainly because they have chosen a weak candidate. BJP's Gupta had contested on a BSP ticket in 2012 assembly seat and had managed to garner only 16570 votes. During the last panchayat elections, Gupta managed to get just 1623 votes,” veteran journalist and political observer Ratan Mani Lal said.
The Rampur seat is being considered as the axis for by-polls to 11 assembly seats in the state. Muslim votes are expected to be divided, as the SP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress have joined the contest. The BSP, contesting from Rampur for the first time, has fielded customs officer Zuber Masood Khan. Arshad Ali Khan has been fielded by the Congress. He had left in 2012 to join the SP, but returned to the Congress fold later in 2017.
Azam Khan, who has also been addressing public gatherings in favour of his wife, in the past broke down on the stage multiple times while asking for votes. He also continuously blamed the state government of political vendetta in the cases lodged against him.