LUCKNOW: In a major jolt to the Congress party ahead of assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Imran Masood, an influential leader and party face in western UP, has formally announced his plans to switch over to the Samajwadi Party (SP) along with his supporters on Monday.
Masood claimed that his decision was driven by the fact that in battleground UP, the fight was straight between the ruling BJP and the SP.
Notably, Masood had been convincing the Congress leadership to fight the 2022 UP Assembly polls in alliance with the SP. In September last year, he had openly praised Akhilesh Yadav-led SP as the only party capable of giving BJP the fight.
On Monday, All India Congress general secretary Masood held a meeting with his supporters at his residence in Saharanpur and vowed to win all the seven seats of Saharanpur Parliamentary segment for the SP to “keep the democracy alive and remove the present fascist government.”
Meanwhile, immediately after the meeting, Saharanpur police lodged an FIR at Qutubsher police station naming Masood and 10 of his supporters along with 300 unidentified persons for violation of Model Code of Conduct and COVID protocol.
“Imran Masood had held a meeting drawing a huge assemblage of his supporters at his Ambala Road residence. He had not secured permission to organize the meeting as the model code of conduct is in force. Moreover, those present in the meeting did not follow the COVID guidelines. No one was wearing the mask nor were they following the social distancing norms. So a case has been registered against Masood, 10 of his named supporters and 300 unidentified people present on the spot under relevant sections of IPC and Epidemic Act,” said a senior police official.
The case has been registered under Sections 188 171-H, 269 and 270 of IPC along with Sections 3 and 4 of Epidemic Act. Those named in the FIR include Imran Masood, Masood Akhtar, Shadan Masood, Chaudhury Irshad, Umesh Tyagi, Gulfam Ansari, Ompal Singh, Vivek Kant, Sukhvinder Sharma, Jabar Singh and 300 unidentified persons.
Imran Masood became an independent MLA from Muzaffarabad assembly seat in 2007. He defeated Jagdish Singh Rana of SP. He has also won the election of Saharanpur Municipality Chairman. In 2012, he contested the assembly elections from Nakur in Saharanpur but lost to Dharam Singh Saini who had contested on BSP ticket. In 2017 Masood tried his fate again from Nakur assembly segment but lost to Dharam Singh Saini who was contesting on a BJP ticket.
Masood had courted controversy at the time of 2014 Lok Sabha elections when he threatened to kill Narendra Modi who was the BJP PM face. Masood was arrested for the comments. With adverse publicity from the controversy, Masood lost from Saharanpur in both the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
This will be the return of the western UP leader to SP fold after seven years. He had joined the SP in 2013, only to return to the Congress the following year. However, the exodus in Congress continues as many senior leaders including Jitin Prasada and Satyadev Tripathi switched over to BJP recently. Also, Congress Raebareli (Sadar) MLA Aditi Singh and party Harchandpur MLA Rakesh Singh had recently switched over to the BJP.
Previously, another close aide of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Harendra Malik along with his son and party’s state vice-president and former MLA Pankaj Malik quit Congress to join the SP.