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Samajwadi Party opted for ‘lesser evil’: Azam Khan on alliance with Congress

New Delhi: The decision to ally with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh is like choosing the “lesser evil” because of the need for secular forces to come together to take on the BJP, feels senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan.

The UP Minister also took a dig at rival BSP, saying that giving 97 tickets to Muslim candidates is not enough and the Mayawati-led party should have given 403 seats to candidates from the community if it wants to woo it.

“In the laboratory of politics, there are experiments of political science…There was an experience in Bihar of a ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand coalition). That experiment in Bihar had succeeded and there was a view among common people that there could be a coalition of like-minded secular people or people who are close to being secular or those who were once secular but because of political compulsions lost their way and again want to take that path, so those people should come together and contest elections,” Khan said.

He was asked about the Samajwadi Party’s decision to contest the UP Assembly polls in coalition with Congress, a party which he has often criticised in the past and has accused of making false promises to the Muslim community.

Khan, who is the most prominent Muslim face of the SP, said the Muslim community has a long history of association with the Congress from the days of the freedom struggle and people including Maulana Azad, M A Jinnah and Allama Iqbal have been Presidents or prominent leaders of the party.

The Congress was even the champion of the freedom struggle and even 50 years after Independence, the Muslims stayed with Congress despite the fact that there some were big incidents, Khan said. However, the Babri Masjid incident, the ‘shilanyas’ episode etc did hurt and led to introspection as to whether the community had made a mistake by not going to Pakistan in 1947, he added.

“We are not giving (Congress) a clean chit. We are choosing the lesser evil,” Khan said. Asked to elaborate on his comment, the SP leader said it is lesser evil in a way that while he does not know what compulsions Congress may have had, but the “very agenda of BJP and RSS is against the weak, Dalits, backward and minorities.” Khan, however, added that this is not a time to discuss these issues and these questions could be answered better after the elections.

Asked about his opinion on various corruption charges levelled against the Congress, Khan said demonetisation is in itself a much bigger “scandal” than anything that may have happened during a Congress regime.

On whether the Congress-SP tie up would be extended to 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well, Khan said it can’t be said now but added that the the tie up in “2017 would yield benefits in 2019 as well.”

Asked about the BSP’s bid to woo the Muslim community, as the party has given 97 tickets to candidates belonging to the community, Khan said that if the party really wanted to please Muslims it should have given them 403 seats. “This is less, they should have given them 403 seats, if they really wanted to please the Muslims. Muslims have brought their (BSP) government in the state four times. We deserve this much,” he said.

Asked to comment on the differences between SP leader Mulayam Singh and his son UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Khan said that he had all along tried to be a bridge and tried to ensure that SP comes to power in the state.

Khan also also referred to remarks made by RSS leader Manmohan Vaidya in Jaipur, saying that despite the “heavy loss” in Bihar, RSS leaders keep making remarks against reservation as it is an attempt to test the mood of the people. “They are waiting for the day when they would say that there should be no reservation and the reaction is mild or not there. Then they would withdraw it,” Khan alleged.