As BJP eyes UP prize, allies Shiv Sena, Akali Dal enter poll fray

Uddhav Thackeray to visit PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi for Ganga Aarti.

Written by Anand Mishra | New Delhi | Updated: October 17, 2016 9:04 am
shiv sena, uddhav thackerey, varanasi, up polls, up elections, elections 2017, assembly polls, india news, indian express Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray (File/Express Photo by Prashant Nadkar)

Two NDA allies, the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal, have decided to field candidates in the forthcoming UP Assembly polls in a bid to “expand” their base beyond their traditional spheres of influence. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, whose party has decided to contest 200 out of 403 Assembly seats in UP, will soon visit PM Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi to perform Ganga Aarti.

“Yes, it will be the first Ganga Aarti that Uddhav Thackeray ji will perform in Uttar Pradesh. The time has yet not been decided, but obviously it has to be done before the Assembly elections. We are fielding candidates in 200 seats in UP,” Sena leader Sanjay Raut told The Indian Express.

Sena has never fielded more than 20-25 candidates in UP in any election.

“Yes, we have never fielded such large number of candidates in Uttar Pradesh earlier. But then every party has a right to expand. What is wrong if Sena wants to go beyond Maharashtra and grow its political strength. It is true that Sena had never decided fight in UP so seriously,” he said. Asked if his party had approached BJP for any alliance in UP, Raut said there were no such talks.

Raut, who looks after Sena affairs in Uttar Pradesh, held a number of meetings with several political leaders last week. Sena is trying rope in leaders from other parties who are unlikely to get tickets.

About SAD’s decision to contest polls in UP, Raut said, “We are small parties. We also have a right to expand.”

SAD has already declared that it has identified 30-odd “winnable seats” in UP. In September, it issued its first list of 21 candidates.

The Akalis’ are fielding candidates in constituencies with considerable Sikh and Punjabi population, including Pilibhit, Ghaziabad, Gola, Bilaspur (Rampur) and Rae Bareli.

The party had earlier said that it will seek an alliance with the BJP in UP on the Punjab pattern or will contest alone. In UP, there are around 45 seats where Punjabis can either help a candidate of their choice win or spoil somebody else’s chance.