A day after Mulayam Singh Yadav announced his candidature from Azamgarh, Samajwadi Party leaders have set about trying to win BJP candidate Ramakant Yadav over to their side.
Ramakant Yadav, the sitting MP, himself has ruled out any chance of joining the SP, claiming that he will defeat Mulayam. “My victory margin will be higher than Narendra Modi’s in Varanasi,” Ramakant told The Indian Express Wednesday.
A number of SP leaders are optimistic, however, that sooner or later Ramakant will cross over. Ramkant is a four-term MP and his victories in 1996 and 1999 had come on an SP ticket.
The SP in Azamgarh has two camps, one led by Durga Prasad Yadav and the other by Balram Yadav, both ministers. SP sources say Balram has lost much of his public support in Azamgarh and is against having Ramakant back in the SP as that would reduce his stature in the party further. Balram had returned the party ticket from Azamgarh. Durga Prasad Yadav, on the other hand, is reported to be open to Ramakant joining the SP.
The SP’s efforts to win Ramakant back have twin objectives. One, it would upset BJP calculations with the sitting MP surrendering his ticket in favour of Mulayam; two, it would send a message across eastern UP that Yadavs are under one umbrella. If Ramakant does return, SP leaders say they are open to “rehabilitating” him from another seat, possibly Jaunpur, and “adjusting” his elder brother Umakant Yadav suitably. Umakant is a former BSP MP.
“For Ramakant, the options are limited. The most he can hope for is to turn a martyr for the BJP with his inevitable defeat to Mulayam Singh,” said a senior SP leader. “He has been an old colleague and still has respect for Mulayam Singh.”
This SP leader is in Lucknow from Azamgarh to thank Mulayam for his decision to contest Azamgarh. Several leaders from there — Ram Asrey Vishwakarma, Hawaldar Yadav, Nafees Ahmed — are also in Lucknow.