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3-min read

Rampur Ke Sholey: History Repeats Itself as Farce in Azam Khan Versus Jaya Prada

If Uttar Pradesh is that great electoral battlefield to win power at the Centre in 2019, Rampur in western UP is only an absurd and isolated caricature of the high-stake battle currently on.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:April 13, 2019, 7:17 PM IST
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Rampur Ke Sholey: History Repeats Itself as Farce in Azam Khan Versus Jaya Prada
File photos of Azam Khan and Jaya Prada
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Rampur: The spoof remake of all-time Bollywood blockbuster Sholey was named Ramgarh Ke Sholey. But in today's context, it's Rampur which has all the thrill of a masala parody.

If Uttar Pradesh is that great electoral battlefield to win power at the Centre in 2019, Rampur in western UP is only an absurd and isolated caricature of the high-stake battle currently on.

Sample this.

In an interior village of the Bilaspur assembly segment, a man in flowing saffron kurta gets up to address the audience. He's introduced as the "famous producer, director and actor of south Indian movies; the one and only Raja Babu, brother of BJP candidate from Rampur, Jaya Prada".

"Behenji ne Rampur ko chamka diya, aur woh rakshas Jaya ji ko bhaga diya (My sister made Rampur shine but that demon drove her out),” says Raja Babu as he blurts out the first few lines of his speech. And then he breaks into sobs.

A BJP worker, as though on cue, starts sloganeering: "Jaya ji tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare sangh hain ”.

And then enters the challenger; Jaya Prada, the cine star-turned-politician, taking on Azam Khan from Rampur.

"Please make the country strong and vote," she exhorts voters as she launches a direct attack on her rival.

But ironic as it may sound, 15 years ago, it was Azam Khan who brought Jaya Prada to Rampur, to challenge the political hegemony of the Nawab's family affiliated to the Congress.

Jaya Prada contested and defeated Begum Noor Bano of the Congress in 2004 Lok Sabha polls. In the next five years, her relations with Khan soured and she moved to the Amar Singh camp. Singh was then the rising star in Mulayam Singh Yadav's close circuit.

By 2009 general elections, Khan had quit SP, citing differences with Mulayam over the party’s bonhomie with former Uttar Pradesh CM Kalyan Singh.

In the ensuing general elections, Amar Singh took charge as Jaya Prada's election manager for Rampur. Jaya Prada and Noor Bano squared off once again.

In one of the most bitterly fought elections, Khan worked to defeat Jaya Prada. Inadvertently or otherwise, a narrative took shape that Noor Bano was perceived as Azam Khan’s candidate. And Jaya Prada was painted as the one challenging Khan.

And once again, Jaya Prada won.

By 2014, both Amar Singh and Jaya Prada had quit the SP. Both contested Lok Sabha elections on Rashtriya Lok Dal tickets and lost. Azam Khan had returned to his parent party ahead of the 2012 assembly polls.

Azam Khan, as he contests 2019 elections on SP symbol, seems to have learnt his lessons from the past and his electoral duel with friend-turned-foe.

Khan's sharp tongue and whiplashing oratory are still a rage among his support base. At an election rally in downtown Rampur in 2012 assembly polls, he launched into a diatribe against the district police and its chief.

"Buddhe chuhon ki mooch nikal jaye to wo sheher ka kaptaan nahin ho gaya. (The old rat does not become police chief merely by growing moustache).”

This election, however, Khan is treading with extreme caution. He still accuses the district administration and Yogi Adityanath government for baying for his blood.

"Ye log meri jaan ke peeche pade hain (These people are after my life),” he says in each and every speech. And then adds, "Jako rakhe saiyan maar sake na koi."

But not once does he even mention Jaya Prada. Day after day, the BJP lashes out at him, provokes and prods him to retaliate.

But Azam Khan does not budge from his script; not even when Raja Babu exhorts Rampurwalas to teach a lesson to one "rakshas" while Jaya Prada in meeting after meeting projects herself as someone who has been sent here to end Azam Khan's reign.

Interestingly this time, Congress has given ticket to Sanjay Kapoor, a former MLA from Bilaspur instead of Noor Bano. A Muslim candidate would have split Azam Khan's vote. On the contrary, BJP fears Kapoor will eat into Jaya Prada's votes. In campaign meetings, BJP leaders have accused Congress and SP of being hand-in-glove against Jaya Prada.

Buffeted by the core BSP votes, Azam Khan knows he needs to ensure there is no polarisation on communal lines.

In Jaya Prada and Azam Khan, one sees vintage Indian netas at work. Flexible and malleable; willing to adapt and adopt.

In this play, only the faces change. And each man and woman in his time plays many parts.
| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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