Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav is caught in an escalating spat between Delhi's Jama Masjid Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari and Uttar Pradesh Minorities Minister Mohammad Azam Khan, both baying for each other.
Bukhari's move to get his son-in-law Umar Ali Khan a berth in the Akhilesh Yadav government and his brother Yahya Bukhari a seat in the Rajya Sabha was stalled following Azam Khan's intervention.
Khan is clearly in no mood to relent on the question of letting Delhi Jama Masjid Imam Ahmed Bukhari have his way.
Khan was understood to have prevailed over Mulayam, who was quite inclined to concede Bukhari's demand as a return gift for the Imam's gesture to campaign for the SP during the recent state assembly election.
What apparently provoked Khan was Bukhari's arrogance reflected in his refusal to accept Umar Ali Khan's nomination to state legislative council, even though he had lost the assembly election.
According to insiders, Bukhari was trying to bully Mulayam by sending the message aloud that he was not ready to get pacified unless both his demands were met.
No sooner than the issue was discussed with Khan, he chose to directly take on the Imam.
He went ahead to blast the Imam for using his religious status to make political dividends for his family. He also chose to stick on in his constituency and home, Rampur, from where he launched a full-throated tirade against Bukhari.
Sources claimed that Khan refused to relent despite repeated appeals by Mulayam, who discussed the issue with him over telephone from Lucknow.
"I am clearly of the view that Bukhari sahib should make up his mind to choose between 'imamat' and politics. If he wants to remain a religious Imam, then he must give up political pursuits," Khan told rediff.com over telephone from Rampur.
While clarifying, "I have nothing personal against him", in his typical sarcastic tone, Khan went on to add, "Bukhari sahib thinks that all problems of the Muslim community would get solved if his son-in-law was made a minister and his brother a Rajya Sabha MP."
Meanwhile, according to the story that is doing rounds in the SP circles here, what annoyed Bukhari was Mulayam's preference for Munawwar Saleem as the party nominee for the vacant Rajya Sabha seat instead of the Imam's brother.
Saleem, who hails from Madhya Pradesh, was stated to be close to Khan.
While Bukhari had very little to say in his own defence, he has launched an offensive against Khan. In any case, Bukhari's credibility among Muslims of Uttar Pradesh was quite low.
His blatant display of craving for cornering certain political benefits for his immediate family members exposed him even more.