Mulayam admits mistake, asks Azam Khan to return to SP

In the most categorical admission of his folly in expelling his party co-founder and its Muslim face, Azam Khan, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Wednesday described the decision as a "mistake" and "appealed" to him to return to party fold.

"I think I should not have succumbed to the pressure tactics (within the party) to expel him. I knew it very well that it was a mistake and a wrong step. It was not in party interest," Mulayam said, during a conversation with a few journalists at the party headquarters in the national capital.

"Samajwadi Party is a party founded by Azam Khan. I wish he sheds his anger against it. I want him to be back. Distance between us is not good for the party. I appeal that he should join Samajwadi Party," Mulayam added.

Mulayam's appeal for Azam's return to the party appeared another desperate attempt by the SP chief to regain his shrinking minority support base in the wake of resurgent Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

Only recently, Mulayam had asserted that Muslims were feeling "cheated" by the verdict of the Allahabad High Court on the Babri title suit.

This was preceded by Mulayam's suo motu apology for closing ranks with Kalyan Singh, who was the CM when Babri Masjid was demolished 1992, during the last general elections.

In fact, in a clear effort at cajoling Azam Khan, the Samajwadi Party chief said that he would not even hesistate to visit the expelled leader in Rampur if he deemed it necessary to get him back into the party fold. He also said he treated Khan as an equal.

"I never claimed that I was the leader of Azam Khan. In fact, I always considered him to be a colleague. It was his magnanimity that he used to call me the leader in the party."

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