SP minority wing to hold convention minus Azam

The minority wing of the ruling Samajwadi Party will for the first time hold a workers' convention here on Saturday, but Parliamentary Affairs Minister Azam Khan, the tallest Muslim leader of the party, has not been invited.

"The convention will be addressed by the party's national president Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav who is also the state president of the party, and me. I have not invited any other leader, including Azam Khan or Ahmad Hasan," said Riyaz Ahmed, Minister of State for Khadi and Village Industries and state president of the SP's minority wing. He said workers of the minority wing wanted to interact directly with Mulayam and Akhilesh, so there was no point inviting other leaders.

During the convention, the SP government's achievements and unfulfilled assurances to the minorities will be discussed, Riyaz said, adding, "The chief minister took decisions, but it is sad that many of them have not been implemented."

Besides, the state government has failed to constitute the State Minorities Commission, Madarsa Board and Urdu Academy for the welfare of minorities even after 11 months in power. "People are asking these questions. Whatever be the reason, in the end the minorities are at a loss if these bodies remain defunct," Riyaz said. All three institutions he named are under the Minority Welfare Department, which is headed by Azam.

The minority wing exists as a frontal organisation in the party but it has never organised any major programme. Small indoor meetings were held in the past in its office at Raj Bhawan Colony. Now, with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections, the SP has galvanised it.

"It was crucial for us to come out in the open and create awareness among our workers. The Congress is creating hype over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to polarise Muslim votes in its favour. They are saying that Modi will become Prime Minister if Muslims don't vote for the Congress. Such a campaign has to be given a befitting reply. We will discuss this at our convention," Riyaz said.

The SP is also feeling the pressure as several programmes of Muslims are being organised by various organisation in Lucknow. On March 3, Imam of Aishbagh Eidgah Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli is organising a programme to highlight the issue of arrest of innocent Muslim youths on terror charges. It will be attended by Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Adeeb.

Another programme on Muslim issues is being organised on March 17 by Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind of Arshad Madani. A seminar to highlight the minority chapter of the 12th five year plan will be organised on March 17 at Ganna Sansthan, which will be attended by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Union Minister of State for HRD Pallam Raju. This programme is being organised by Fazlur Rahim, a cleric from Jaipur.

However, Riyaz said, "We are not concerned about anyone's programme. We are organising a political function. Others are doing it only to highlight themselves.''

Riyaz, MLA from Pilibhit, had lost the 2009 Lok Sabha election to BJP candidate Varun Gandhi.

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