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Razia, Farzana’s Careers As Punjab MLAs Shaped By Their Top Cop Spouses

As Punjab heads towards the 2022 Assembly elections, Razia Sultana, the Women and Child Development Minister, is once again pitted against her old political foe Farzana Alam. The two women didn’t choose to be political foes. It was their respective spouses’ choice.

Razia Sultana and Farzana Alam. (Photo: ANI)

Chandigarh: It’s an uncanny story of two women lawmakers from Malerkotla, the only Muslim-dominated constituency in Punjab. Razia Sultana and Farzana Alam’s tryst with power is filled with uncanny similarities.

The husbands of both these women are retired DGPs of Punjab. Former DGP Mohammad Mustafa is Razia Sultana’s husband and late Izhar Alam, Farzana’s husband.

Both the top cops were outsiders too. Alam was from Sitamarhi in Bihar while Mustafa hailed from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Farzana herself is from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. Razia, though, is Malerkotla born.

As Punjab heads towards the 2022 Assembly elections, Razia Sultana, the Women and Child Development Minister, is once again pitted against her old political foe Farzana Alam. The two women didn’t choose to be political foes. It was their respective spouses’ choice.

Razia is contesting as Congress candidate while Farzana Alam, who in 2012 had fought and won on the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) ticket, is the Punjab Lok Congress candidate. Nusrat Ali Khan is the Akali candidate from the seat and former Congressman Mohammad Jamil-ur-Rehman is fighting on the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket.

Razia’s ascent as an MLA from Malerkotla can be attributed to her tiff with the present AAP candidate Jamil-ur-Rehman in 2002.

A keen watcher of politics in Malerkotla, Shahab-ud-din remembers, “Jamil-ur-Rehman had fought as an independent in 1997 and lost. In 2002, he had presented himself as a potential Congress candidate. Razia too was a ticket aspirant. At a rally which was to be addressed by Capt Amarinder Singh, police allegedly locked Jamil-ur-Rehman in a room so that he was unable to reach the stage. This police action was then attributed to Razia’s husband Mustafa.”

Now, contesting as AAP candidate, Jamil-ur-Rehman says,” This happened long back in 2002. I have moved on. It was unfortunate, I can only say that much.” Shahab-ud-din makes another claim. “Razia got the ticket because of Mustafa’s alleged proximity to Robert Vadra,” he says.

In 2002, Razia won the Assembly election by a slender margin of 179 votes. She polled 37,557 votes while her nearest rival Ajit Singh, an independent, secured 37, 378.

Local journalist Zahur Ahmed gives an interesting insight. He says, “Razia Sultana’s sudden rise also meant that Izhar Alam, the then ADGP of Punjab Police and a senior of Mustafa, found himself at a relegated position compared to Mustafa in terms of political reach. It had him worried.”

In 2007, Razia again won from Malerkotla defeating Abdul Gaffar of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) by a margin of about 15,000 votes.

Now, both Akalis and Alams were worried. Akalis knew that Razia, being a local from Malerkotla, and a Muslim married to a police officer who wielded some influence was here to stay.

For Izhar Alam also it had become a prestige issue that a junior officer had more influence than him in the corridors of Capitol Hill. Akalis and Alams’ short-term ambition was to cut Razia and Mustafa to size.

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Alam retired in 2010.The Akali Dal was in power then and Alam was immediately made the Wakf Board chairman. This was followed by Akalis almost making him their candidate against Razia in the 2012 Assembly elections.

However, one faction of the Akalis opposed his candidature due to the way he had handled the separatist movement back in the 1980s. That is when Farzana Alam, the quintessential home-maker, was chosen as an Akali candidate.

Pitted against her was the veteran of two elections, Razia Sultana. Farzana won the election by a margin of 5,200 votes.

Malerkotla social activist Mohammad Razzaq says the 2012 election results helped Alams regain the power they had lost to Razia Sultana and her husband.

“If you look at the overall picture in 2022, Razia emerges as a clear winner. And the reasons are not difficult to find. While Izhar Alam and his wife Farzana both were outsiders, so was Mustafa, Razia Sultana is the daughter of Malerkotla. And obviously, to come from a locally influential family makes a lot of difference. That husband was an IPS officer was the icing on the cake,” added Razzaq.

Farzana Alam wasn’t considered by the Akali Dal as a candidate in the last Assembly election in 2017. Instead, the party fielded Mohammad Owais, who lost to Sultana. In June 2021, Izhar Alam passed away.

Come 2022 and it’s a four-cornered contest in Malerkotla – Razia Sultana from Congress, SAD’s Nusrat Ali Khan, Jamir-ul-Rehman from Aam Aadmi Party, and Farzana Alam representing Punjab Lok Congress.

For Farzana, it looks like a losing battle. But as the Hindi proverb goes, Hum to doobe hai sanam, tumhe bhi le doobenge (I will drown, and I will take you along), Razzaq tries to explain the battle.

“Farzana Alam will cut into the Congress vote bank since she is Capt Amarinder’s candidate from PLC. Yet another reason is the rantings of Razia Sultana’s husband Mohammad Mustafa against Capt Amarinder Singh. This is why the Capt very carefully chose a former Akali candidate Farzana Alam to ensure Razia loses from here. On the other hand, since Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa is also the Capt’s alliance partner, a lot of Sikh voters instead of voting for the Akali candidate could vote for PLC’s Farzana Alam. However, she seems an unlikely candidate to win but someone who could bring the curtains down on Razia Sultan’s 2022 prospects.

Ask AAP candidate Jamil-ur-Rehman and he laughs,”Malerkotla mein badle ki fiza hai, baaki 20 tarik ko pata lag hi jayega (There are winds of change blowing in Malerkotla, rest we should wait till February 20).