Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), BJP’s ally at the Centre, on Sunday released the first list of 21 candidates for the UP Assembly polls next year. Office-bearers of SAD said another list of around 25 candidates could be released later. The party is going to contest the Assembly elections in UP for the first time.
Among the 21 candidates in the first list, 12 are Sikhs. The party has also fielded three candidates on reserved seats. The party has so far fielded candidates from Rae Bareli, Saraini and Unchahar — all three in Rae Bareli district — Ghaziabad, Bilaspur, Saharanpur, Jhansi, Pilibhit, Pallia, Mohammadi, Mohanlalganj, Kasta, Gola, Lucknow Cantonment, Ferozabad, Pratapgarh and Barkhera among others.
Gupreet Singh Bagga will contest from Saharanpur Nagar, where BJP’s Rajeev Gumbar is the sitting MLA. SAD state president Rai Singh will contest from Pallia while his wife Raj Rai will fight from Pilibhit.
Raj Rai is a former BJP MLA from Pilibhit, who had lost to sitting SP MLA Riyaz Ahmad in the 2002 UP elections. He had also served as the finance minister in the BSP-BJP alliance government in 1997. She had later contested the Assembly polls from Pilibhit in both 2002 and 2007 — both times as a Congress nominee — and lost. She also contested Lok Sabha elections in 1999 on a Congress ticket but lost to Union Minister and Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi.
“SAD has declared candidates only on those seats where BJP’s performance has been weak in the past elections. BJP candidates could not get find a place among the first three runner-ups,” Rai Singh said.
Asked about Saharanpur Nagar where BJP has a sitting MLA, Singh said there are around 1.5 lakh Sikhs in the constituency. “SAD will talk to BJP in future regarding alliance. It will not embarrass BJP in any constituency,” he added.
SAD had started preparations for entering in UP politics in May by appointing Singh — a retired IAS officer— as its state president.