Abu Azmi's hotelier son Farhan Azmi, 34, who also heads the youth wing of the state unit of Samajwadi Party, is contesting from the high profile Mumbi North-Central parliamentary constituency. Farhan's entry into the star-studded constituency, which already has sitting Congress MP Priya Dutt, BJP's Poonam Mahajan and Phiroze Palkhivala of the Aam Aadmi Party in fray, has changed the dynamics of the constituency, making the contest more interesting.
Farhan, who is married to actor Ayesha Takia and who was recently blessed with a son, seeks to revive the party in Maharashtra by engaging people from across the communities.
Excerpts from an interview with Kanchan Srivastava
Q: Do you think you will be able to defeat Priya Dutt and Poonam Mahajan?
A: I am contesting only to win. Priya Dutt has done nothing for the area all these years except helping Baba Siddique grab the projects of the slum rehabilitation authorities. Most of the people in the constituency don't even recognize her. People don't have access to education, health and toilets while she enjoys all the luxuries. She has spoiled the name of her father in whose respect we didn't field anyone against her in the last elections. Poonam Mahajan has no identity and hence is seeking votes in the name of Narendra Modi like beggars seeking money in the name of God. Shockingly, to defeat a Muslim candidate, they both have joined hands. Their meeting and public display of affection on Tuesday was pre-planned.
Q: Are you projecting yourself as a Muslim candidate focusing only on community votes?
A: I am a Muslim for sure. But I am not seeking votes only from the community. I don't see India as a land of minority and majority communities. Many Hindus are also attending our meetings. Among 18 lakh voters, there are 5.4 lakh Muslims and about 1.7 lakh north Indians, who will support me now.
Q: You have not even won an assembly election. You lost the Bhiwandi seat vacated by your father in a bye-poll.
A: I lost with a thin margin, that too because of bogus voting by Shiv Sena.
Q: People say you are an outsider for the North Central constituency.
A: I have my hotels and a shoe shop in this area. My wife's parents stay here. If anyone is an outsider here, it is Poonam Mahajan.
Q: What is your vision for the constituency?
A: The constituency has some plush areas and a large number of slums. I plan to donate slippers worth Rs1 lakh to the poor in the area soon after the election. Visiting the area in the past six days has left me in tears. Many kids don't go school. Many go barefoot to fetch water in the scorching heat. Women are forced to defecate in the open. I promise free education and medicines for everyone. I also want to see Bandra as a tourist hub for which de-congesting the roads would be my priority. I will also promote the culture of cycling in the area.
Q: Your father Abu Azmi was jailed for a year in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case. Will this taint affect your prospects?
A: If people rake up this issue, I will only be happy to tell them that my father was acquitted of all charges by the Supreme Court. Since then, I and my five sisters have lost our father, who devoted himself to the cause of Muslims and the rampant discrimination against them across Maharashtra.