Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav
All cases lodged against Rampur MP Azam Khan would be withdrawn if the Samajwadi Party comes to power, its president Akhilesh Yadav said on Saturday, drawing a sharp retort from Union minister Santosh Gangwar, who termed the assertion an "unrestrained gossip".
According to a statement issued by the Samajwadi Party, Yadav made these remarks at Rampur, where he met Khan's family at his residence and visited Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, Urdu Gate and Rampur Public School International.
He assured the party's full support to Khan, who is facing several police cases including those related to alleged land-grabbing. Authorities claim that the gate of Mohammad Ali Jauhar University, established by Khan in 2006, is built on government land.
Addressing reporters in Rampur, Yadav said, "Once the Samajwadi Party is voted back to power in UP, all the cases lodged against senior SP leader and Rampur MP Azam Khan will be withdrawn.
"The relationship with Azam Khan is that of family and not of politics," the statement quoted him as having said.
Yadav said that he would meet Governor Anandiben Patel in this regard, if necessary. "I will inform her about the atrocities unleashed by the administration. Copies of all the FIRs lodged against Khan will be taken and a report compiled."
He showered praise on Khan. "He has established fine Ali Jauhar University. He has fulfilled his dreams, and has made this institution for the bright future of children."
"Today, education has become very expensive and this university will help the youth from and around Rampur to get quality education. Azam sahaab has done a good job of securing the future of the children," he said.
Hitting out the ruling BJP, the former chief minister said, "The BJP is indulging in politics of vendetta. It is diverting people's attention from real issues."
He said that after the Lok Sabha elections, people were hopeful that the government will usher in development, but it failed.
"The Defence Budget, which was meant for Defence Corridor, is going to foreign countries through Apache and Rafale. Make in India cannot be seen anywhere."
"The BJP is taking the country towards fear and hatred. First, the statue of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar was vandalised in Saharanpur, and then a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was vandalised in Jalaun," he alleged.
Samajwadi Party workers accorded him warm welcome at various places from Lucknow to Bareilly and Rampur, the party statement said.
Meanwhile, in Bareilly, Union minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour and Employment, Gangwar said, "Akhilesh's difficulties are going to increase. Hence he is afraid and indulging in unrestrained gossip against the government, while siding with Azam Khan."
Addressing a press conference over completion of 100 days of the Modi government, Gangwar said, "Azam Khan's sympathisers would have perhaps forgotten that during his tenure as a UP minister, he had punished an officer in Bareilly by asking him to squat and hold his ears.
"Rampur is our neighbouring district. Who else better than us would know about Azam's misdeeds?"
On Friday, before leaving for Rampur, Yadav had said in Sitapur, "Our party leader MP Azam Khan been been targeted by the government. Over 80 cases have been lodged against him within a month. These cases include of goat and buffalo theft."