LUCKNOW: Ending the suspense, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday announced that he would be contesting Lok Sabha elections from Azamgarh, his father and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s pocket borough. Currently, Mulayam is the sitting MP from the constituency.
In a list of two candidates that the party put out on Sunday, SP strongman and former cabinet minister in Akhilesh government, Azam Khan’s name also figures. He will be contesting from his traditional seat of Rampur in western UP.
However, last week Azam Khan had given a poll boycott call in view of district administration’s crackdown on his properties allegedly acquired illegally.
The Sunday list of the SP also ended the speculation that Mulayam Singh Yadav may contest from a second seat also and it could be Azamgarh. Initially, Akhilesh had expressed his intention to fight from Kannauj, the Itar capital of India, in central UP. But the SP chief himself released a list of three women candidates on March 8, International Women’s Day, announcing that his wife and sitting MP Dimple Yadav would seek a re-election from Kannauj.
Azamgarh has been a strong SP turf as party’s traditional vote bank -- Muslim- Yadav combination -- makes over 25 per cent of the electoral population of this parliamentary segment. In 2014, Mulayam had contested from Azamgarh and Mainpuri winning both the seats. He retained Azamgarh and vacated Mainpuri which was won by his grand-nephew Tej Pratap in the by-poll later.
By announcing his candidature on purportedly popular demand of the electorate, Akhilesh has tended to cash in on his father’s legacy. In 2014, Mulayam had scored 35.43 per cent votes in Azamgarh defeating his nearest rival Ramakant Yadav of the BJP by a margin of around 63,000 votes. Ramakant had mustered around 29 per cent votes. In fact, Ramakant Yadav had won the crucial seat for the BJP in 2009 defeating BSP’s Akbar Ahmad Dumpy by a margin of 49,000 votes.
Moreover, Ramakant Yadav has also been a popular face in the constituency. He has represented Azamgarh in Lok Sabha thrice —1996 (SP), 1999 (SP), and 2004 (BSP). Akhilesh’s intention to contest from the home district of famous poet Kaifi Azami seems to have got strength from the fact that SP has maximum five sitting MLAs of total 10 assembly segments under Azamgarh parliamentary constituency
On the other hand, in Rampur, Azam Khan is going to challenge the might of BJP which has not yet announced its candidate. However, in 2014, Dr Nepal Singh of the party had defeated SP’s Naseer Ahmad Khan by a small margin of 23,500 votes. The speculation is rife that the BJP may field actor Jaya Prada Nahta against Azam Khan this time around. Jaya Prada, supposedly a close confidante of expelled SP leader Amar Singh, has represented Rampur twice on SP ticket in 2009 and 2004.