UP’s urban development and parliamentary affairs minister Azam Khan is described as the Muslim mascot of the Samajwadi Party. And sure enough, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav makes it a point to keep him in good humour, even though Azam often embarrasses the party. The “loose cannon” is clearly one of the more difficult “uncles” CM Akhilesh has to handle.
Those who have followed him from the days he was Aligarh Muslim University students union president and later Babri Masjid Action Committee convenor were not surprised when he said recently that he “would not mind leading a mob to pull down the Taj Mahal, because I firmly believe it was an extravagant misuse of public money by a ruler. He had no business to do that to display his love for his wife.”
It’s just another outrageous remark by Azam that people laugh off or shrug at. But at times he also resorts to rank bad language. Jayaprada learnt this when Azam used the most derogatory invectives against her during the ’09 Lok Sabha campaign in Rampur (she was eventually re-elected). Azam sees Rampur as his home ground and was unhappy about the actress getting a ticket. He also took on Jama Masjid imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari when the latter tried to bully Mulayam over political appointments for his family members.
Last month, while travelling on a train from Lucknow to Rampur, he made the TTE hold his ears and do sit-ups for issuing untidy linen in the coach. When a move was initiated to make him assembly speaker, he told a TV channel, “I don’t mind becoming speaker. The only trouble is, if any member flings paper balls at me, I will throw the paper weight at him.” Not long ago, he also offered to resign when Akhilesh sought to reduce his status as minister-in-charge of three districts to one, following complaints by minister Shahid Manzoor that Azam was ignoring him.