Is Uttar Pradesh's ruling Samajwadi Party finally getting tired of its senior leader and minister Mohd Azam Khan?While the party is yet to pronounce a judgement, public posturing of its senior leaders suggests that it might be running out of patience as far as Khan and his utterances are concerned. Khan, often a source of embarrassment to the state government, has triggered a storm by saying that he will petition the UN against what he said were "atrocities" on Muslims.He made the statement following the September 28 lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in western Uttar Pradesh over concocted allegations that the victim ate beef.While the Samajwadi Party was initially mute on Khan's comments, senior leaders have now begun to distance themselves from the powerful minister.Shivpal Singh Yadav, the state's PWD minister and younger brother of party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, has said that the party and the government have nothing to do with Khan's UN remark."It is his personal statement. The government and the party have nothing to do with it," he said, with a stamp of finality.
Insiders say the party is worried about the fallout of Khan's statement, which has triggered criticism from even among sections of Muslims.Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which the BJP virtually wiped out the Samajwadi Party in the state, Khan made several inflammatory speeches.With those statements still fresh in memory, the Samajwadi Party now wants to play it safe ahead of assembly elections due in early 2017.Another hint of changing times within the party structure is the visible bonhomie between Mulayam Singh Yadav and former general secretary Amar Singh, expelled from the party in 2010.Amar Singh, who has been a bitter rival of Khan in the party, blames the latter for his expulsion. Soon after Amar Singh's ouster, Khan called him a "pimp".On Thursday, not only did Mulayam Singh share stage with Amar Singh at an event but also openly showed his affection for the former party leader.He held Amar Singh's hand, took him to the dais and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav vacated his chair for "uncle Amar" - his first open show of affection in a long time for the former Rajya Sabha member.It was rumoured that Khan threatened to quit the Akhilesh Yadav cabinet if he was not allowed to petition the UN. His office has denied this.
Khan, the urban development, parliamentary affairs and minority affairs minister, is the de facto number two in the government. He was one of the founder members of the Samajwadi Party and so enjoys a lot of clout.But he is infamous for his caustic tongue and vitriolic statements. During the Lok Sabha campaign, he called BJP star and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "gaddar" (traitor) and claimed that the 1999 Kargil war was won by "Muslim bravehearts in the Indian Army".He was expelled many years back when Amar Singh was at the pinnacle of power in the Samajwadi Party. He returned to the party later. On many occasions, he has not turned up at cabinet meetings or key party events. And Khan is known for throwing tantrums.Is this all going to end?