Mulayam Singh Yadav will contest from Azamgarh alongside his current Mainpuri constituency. Samajwadi Party general secretary Ramgopal Yadav announced Tuesday that the decision to field the party chief from Azamgarh was taken on the demand of party workers and leaders from various eastern UP districts. Several other SP candidates in adjoining seats in the eastern region, too, are likely to be changed.
The SP has brought back former MP C N Singh to Pratapgarh after having replacing him with Pramod Patel in March. It announced Shivendra Singh for the Rampur Khas bypoll after Congress leader Pramod Tiwari vacated it.
Having fielded Mulayam from Azamgarh, the SP will be hoping to counter the influence Narendra Modi’s candidature from Varanasi will have on the eastern region. For Mulayam, the eastern region is key as his party has lost much of its base in the western region after the Muzaffarnagar riots. Eastern UP, known as Poorvanchal, has 27 seats. In 2009, the BSP won nine seats followed by the Congress and the SP with seven each while the BJP ended with only four MPs, including Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.
Azamgarh’s caste equations suit the SP as it has a dominance of Yadavs and Muslims, both traditional voters of the SP. The combination was dented in the area after Yadavs deserted the SP in Azamgarh in 2009. The strategy is based on the premise that Mulayam as candidate would keep the Muslim-Yadav support intact. The move was in fact being discussed for over a month, long before Modi’s candidature was announced.
The SP is also looking at preparing the ground for another member of the Mulayam family, possibly his grandson Tej Pratap Singh, known as Teju Bhaiyya. Should Mulayam win both seats, it is expected he will relinquish Mainpuri for his grandson to contest the by-poll. Mulayam’s son Prateek is another contender for Mainpuri, considered a safe seat.
The party has tried such a strategy earlier. In 1999, Mulayam won both Sambhal and Kannauj, and surrendered the latter for his son Akhilesh. Tej Pratap is at present Mulayam’s representative in Mainpuri and campaigning on his behalf in the constituency.
Azamgarh marks the first time anyone from the family will be venturing electorally into the eastern region. Initially, Panchayati Raj Minister Balram Yadav had been announced as the candidate, but he ran into opposition from party workers and declined to contest, after which the ticket was given to Hawaldar Yadav, the district unit president of the party. Now that Mulayam has been announced as the candidate, it presents Balram a face-saver. Until a few months ago, Balram was trying to push Prateek Yadav, and dharnas were held outside the SP office by people claiming to be from Azamgarh.
Traditionally, Azamgarh has been where the SP prefers to start its election campaign. In 2012, the SP had announced its first election meeting here on January 1. This time, Mulayam began his rallies on October 29 in Azamgarh.
The SP holds nine of 10 assembly seats in Azamgarh district.