Referring to Azam Khan's derogatory remark about her, Jayaprada says how the electoral contest has become more about personal insults.
Rampur: "Am I a nachne wali, am I an amrapali," BJP candidate Jaya Prada asked at a rally, her question referencing SP leader's Azam Khan's derogatory remark about her as a dancing girl and testimony to how the electoral contest here has become more about personal insults than anything else.
The crowd at the public meeting in Mat Khera village responded to her posers with a loud “no” and the actor-turned-politician went on to narrate the harassment she faced from the Samajwadi Party candidate.
The contest between the one time buddies and now arch rivals was always expected to be fierce but the saga of acrimony took an ugly turn with the SP veteran's ‘khaki underwear' jibe.
Rampur, which goes to the polls on Tuesday, was propelled into the national spotlight with the furore that followed and the political discourse has since centred on just that.
While Jaya Prada has been reminding the public about it in every meeting, Khan has played the victim card after the Election Commission's 72-hour campaign ban was imposed on him. As Jaya Prada turned this election into a fight for women's dignity, Khan gave it a religious colour with speeches seemingly intended to appeal to Muslims.
Khan's son also claimed the ban was imposed on his father because he is a Muslim. Melodrama and emotional appeals have also been aplenty with first Jaya Prada breaking down at a public meeting earlier this month and then Khan letting tears flow at a meeting on Friday after his 72-hour ban came to an end.
The former actor, a long time SP member who joined the BJP just days before the election, said Khan's remarks could well be the party's undoing with women in the constituency now turning against it.
She also reiterated time and again that people will not forgive Khan for insulting women and calling her names like “nachnewali and amrapali”. Another factor at play in this western Uttar Pradesh town is that the Congress has given the ticket to local leader Sanjay Kapoor instead of fielding a member of the erstwhile Rampur royal family.
Initially, Khan, representing the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, seemed to be benefiting from the move, but problems cropped up with the Nawab family later coming out in support of Kapoor. This could dent the SP veteran's Muslim support base.
However, most Muslims appear to be backing Khan for being the most likely to beat the BJP. Naheed Khan, a taxi driver, said he and his entire family will vote for Khan as he had ensured massive infrastructural development in the city.
“If Begum sahab (Noor Bano) would have been contesting then it would have been a different matter, but in her absence there is no chance for anybody else apart from Khan,” he told PTI.
Muslim women, too, seem to be backing Khan with many saying the SP leader's underwear jibe is unwarranted but they are likely to vote for him for the work he has done. Without naming Jaya Prada, Khan told an election rally in Rampur recently.
"...You got represented (by her) for 10 years. People of Rampur, people of Uttar Pradesh and people of India, it took you 17 years to understand her reality. But I could recognise it in 17 days that she wears khaki underwear."
Khan was slapped with a 72-hour poll campaign ban, an FIR and a National Commission for Women notice for the comment. The BJP mounted a sharp political attack comparing his "disgusting" comments to the disrobing of Draupadi in Mahabharata.
A key factor in the election will also be whether Dalits and Yadavs will vote for Khan and the BSP vote will transfer to him or not. There is a possibility of religious polarisation in which caste equations may count for little.
While Khan will need a push from the BSP voters and Yadavs to sail through, Jaya Prada will want a consolidation of Hindu votes and a division in Muslim votes towards the Congress.
Among the total votes of over 16 lakh, more than 50 per cent are Muslim votes, and the rest Hindus with Yadavs and Jatavs forming a sizeable chunk. In 2014, BJP's Nepal Singh won the election with a narrow margin of over 23,000 votes, beating SP's Naseer Ahmed Khan. Nawab Kazim Ali Khan of the Congress was third.
Rampur was a Congress stronghold from 1952 to 1989 before the BJP won it for the first time in 1991. The Congress, however, managed to wrest it back in 1996 by fielding Begum Noor Bano. In 1998, BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi won the seat but the next year, Noor Bano got it back for the Congress.
The SP made its entry in Rampur in 2004, fielding Jaya Prada who defeated Noor Bano by a big margin. Jaya Prada retained the seat in 2009. As the curtains fall on one of the most acrimonious campaigns Rampur has seen in recent times, it will take some time to decide whether the tongues were sharper during the campaigning or the famed knives from this western UP town.
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