All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Tuesday claimed that Samajwadi Party (SP) president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s government had stopped him from visiting Uttar Pradesh 12 times. The SP government was in power from 2012 to 2017.

The Hyderabad MP made the claim in Azamgarh, Yadav’s Lok Sabha constituency, during his day-long visit to the state’s Purvanchal region with ally and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar. The stated objective of Owaisi’s visit is to “gauge the mood in the state” in preparation for next year’s state elections.

After landing in Varanasi, Owaisi told reporters outside the airport, “When there was the Samajwadi Party government, they stopped us 12 times from visiting. They cancelled our permission 28 times. Now, we have got a chance, and hence I am here.”

From Varanasi, the two leaders headed to Jaunpur, and then went to Azamgarh. An AIMIM leader said the two visited two madrasas in Jaunpur and Azamgarh and interacted with students and teachers. “He [Owaisi] also held some closed-door meetings in both districts with party workers along with Rajbhar ji,” added the leader.

Akhilesh Yadav, who was also in Purvanchal, refused to respond to Owaisi’s allegation. Asked about the AIMIM chief’s visit to his constituency, the former chief minister told reporters outside the Varanasi airport, “The people of Azamgarh are the family of Samajwadis. The relationship with the people of Azamgarh is not new. The party had relations with the people of Azamgarh even when I was not in politics… This is Uttar Pradesh. The people of the state want to remove BJP. The farmers, youth, traders and minorities of the state and all other sections too want to remove them. We are ready to remove the BJP government.”

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